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Pruett, Alexander, Anderson and M. Smith Race to Provisional No. 1 Spots at NHRA Internationals

A week after advancing to her first final round of the season, Leah Pruett is on track for her first No. 1 qualifier of 2021 in Top Fuel, taking the provisional top spot in qualifying on Friday during the 61st annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

Blake Alexander (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also provisional No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the 10th race of the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season and the final event of the famed three-race NHRA Western Swing.

Pruett impressed under the lights in Pomona, going 3.780-seconds at 321.88 mph in her 11,000-horsepower Sparkling Ice Spiked dragster. It would give Pruett her first No. 1 qualifier of the season and 13th in his career if it holds, and continue the strong showing for the Don Schumacher Racing team after advancing to the final round in Sonoma last weekend. Pruett is also seeking her second win at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona following her 2017 triumph.

“We’re living up to our expectations and that is being a force to be reckoned with,” Pruett said. “This is a continuation of momentum from Sonoma. We can’t get too excited, but I knew about halfway down the track that we were on a good run. It’s those small little glimpses of success that show us we’re on the right track. This isn’t the Olympics, but we’re after our own gold.”

Mike Salinas went 3.840 at 308.35 in a great side-by-side run with Pruett to take the second position and Buddy Hull is currently third after going 4.105 at 278.69.

Alexander had the run of the evening in Funny Car, blasting to the No. 1 position with his run of 3.961 at 318.84 in his 11,000-horsepower Pronto Auto Service Center/Head Inc. Ford Mustang. Should that number hold up during the two qualifying sessions on Saturday, Alexander would clinch his first career No. 1 qualifier. Alexander, who has two Top Fuel wins, is also searching for his first win in Funny Car. Robert Hight, who won in Sonoma, is right behind Alexander, going 3.962 at 327.11, and Cruz Pedregon is third after his solid run of 3.967 at 317.34

Qualifying continues to treat Anderson very well, as the Pro Stock legend took the provisional No. 1 spot with his run of 6.588 at 209.23 in his HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro. Should it hold, Anderson, the current points leader, would qualify No. 1 for an incredible eighth time in nine Pro Stock races this season. It would also give the four-time champ his 114th career No. 1 qualifier as he chases his 13th Pomona win and 97th career victory, which would tie him with Warren Johnson for the most in Pro Stock history. Erica Enders, the reigning Pro Stock world champ, is second thanks to her 6.590 at 207.15, while Matt Hartford is right behind after his run of 6.593 at 207.82.

Smith’s bid to end the Western Swing on a strong note started in impressive fashion on Friday, as the points leader and defending world champ went 6.806 at 199.20 on his Denso Auto Parts/Stockseth/Matt Smith Racing EBR. If it holds, it would give Smith his third No. 1 qualifier this season and the 46th in his standout career. After winning in Denver to open the Western Swing, Smith will try to close it out with his fourth Pomona win. Teammate Scotty Pollacheck is currently in the second position after his run of 6.865 at 196.64 and Joey Gladstone’s 6.889 at 195.73 rounds out the top three.

Qualifying continues at 3:30 p.m. PT on Saturday at the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com.

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This story was originally published on July 31, 2021. Drag Illustrated

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