The weekend did not end at the Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals the way Leah Pruett hoped for as she represented the Rayce Rudeen Foundation Top Fuel Dragster.
During Friday’s qualifying sessions, Pruett delivered a remarkable performance, securing the No. 3 provisional qualifying position with a quick run of 3.781 ET at 321.96 mph. Her impressive showing earned her one bonus point for the third-quickest run of the session. However, subsequent sessions presented some challenges, and she concluded with the No. 10 qualifying position.
In Sunday’s elimination rounds, Pruett gave her all, running a fast 3.746 ET at 328.38 mph during Round 1. Despite her best efforts, she faced a strong competitor in Shawn Langdon and narrowly missed advancing to the next round.
“A driver should have confidence in their crew chief and Neal Strausbaugh (crew chief) and Mike Domagala (co-crew chief) have worked very hard,” said Pruett. “There’s a big difference between running those night races and in the heat on race day. They’ve done a phenomenal job. I’m blessed to be able to race for them. It stings losing on a holeshot. I gave it my absolute all and gave our Rayce Rudeen Foundation dragster the best chance it had. Both lanes are great. I’m doing everything in my ability to be a better driver. Some people are naturally a better driver, but some people have to work really hard at it. For my crew chiefs, they’re working really hard to get this car right and I’m working hard at getting me right.”
Pruett represented the Rayce Rudeen Foundation throughout the weekend. This non-profit organization is dedicated to promoting a healthy and addiction-free life, working in memory of Rayce Rudeen, who tragically lost his life to an accidental Fentanyl overdose. The foundation collaborates with various institutions and community partners to create a supportive environment, free from stigma, for those dealing with addiction.
In another heartwarming gesture, Pruett presented the Juggers Annual Scholarship to William Baker-Johnson during the Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals. The Juggers Annual Scholarship, offered by the Juggers Racing Team, supports young individuals pursuing careers in the automotive industry. Baker-Johnson, an aspiring commercial pilot, received this year’s scholarship, which includes a certificate and $1,000 in cash.
Looking ahead, Pruett remains focused on the next race, aiming to improve her standing in the Top Fuel championship. Currently ranked fifth, she is determined to close the gap and challenge the leader, Justin Ashley.