As teams roll into Brainerd International Raceway, a significant milestone is on the horizon for the driver of the Dodge Direct Connection Top Fuel Dragster. Leah Pruett is gearing up for her landmark 200th start at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals.
The significance of her 200th start isn’t lost on her. “It is wild to think I’m making my 200th start,” said Pruett. “I’m thankful to every team and crew chief I’ve gotten to drive for. It all started with just wanting to go fast and compete at national events with the big dogs. From my start with Dote Racing, brief stint but win with BVR (Bob Vandergriff Racing), Lagana’s Nitro Ninja, DSR’s (Don Schumacher Racing) professional presence delivering wins with driver and personal growth, to being fully immersed in a team co-built from the inside out. Every dynamic of my Top Fuel start has changed from 199 races ago, except my gratitude and will to win. Those things remain the same, but the enjoyment factor of who and how I do it with continues to skyrocket.”
Pruett has two career wins at Brainerd. Her first victory came in 2017 when she defeated Antron Brown. Pruett won again in 2019 when her run of 3.732 ET at 321.04 mph bested Mike Salinas’ 4.066 ET at 235.72 mph. She also has one No. 1 qualifier at the event, which came in 2017.
Furthermore, Pruett elapsed time at Brainerd with 3.640 ET, a mark she established on August 18, 2017, en route to one of her two victories at the track.
The NHRA Nationals at Brainerd is one of four events Pruett has won twice, along with the NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California, the NHRA Arizona Nationals in Chandler, and the Dodge Power Brokers Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colorado.
Reflecting on her journey and the impending race, Pruett said, “I’ve had great history at Brainerd, but right now our focus is on swinging the power pendulum the opposite direction than we did last year at this race. This race is huge because last year was the beginning of us .74-ing (elapsed time) them to death no matter what we did, while the rest of the field picked up. We’ve shown we can pick up and be a top-tier qualifying car and that’s what we intend to do this weekend to start us off right with proper momentum. The forecast doesn’t particularly show conditions that can give my former record a run for the money, but it will allow us to race fast and hard.”