Only 48-hours prior to the kickoff of the NHRA’s first of two Four-Wide Nationals – the first coming this weekend at the luxurious Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Nevada – Top Fuel superstar Leah Pruett is excited to make her 175th career Top Fuel start. It’ll be her 14th overall at The Strip in Las Vegas, and her fourth time competing in the Four-Wide Nationals.
It’s been a tough for Pruett and company early in 2022, but the nine-time Top Fuel winner is looking to put her Code 3 Associates dragster in the winner’s circle and chart her team’s course toward championship contention.
Pruett checked in with DRAG ILLUSTRATED prior to the opening rounds of qualifying in Las Vegas.
The Four-Wide Nationals have been around for a while now, both at Las Vegas and Charlotte. But for the novice fan, how are the Four-Wide Nationals different from a regular, straight-up, car-to-car battle down the strip?
The Four-Wide Nationals is an amplifier of the nitro sensory experience. It requires paying additional attention to each quad on track in order to process all of the action that is happening. If you’re just staring at lane one and watching that car, you will not even realize what happened in lane four. You need the ultimate earmuffs, so this is a close-your-ears-and-open-your-eyes kind of a race.
How much do you pay attention to the other three drivers, or do you just focus on you, your car and your light?
While in my race, I am zoned in on my lane and my tree. Traditionally in a two-wide, the second lane would be ‘right’ and you would look at your stage bulbs on the right side of the tree. Not the case here. In lane two you feel you are in the right, but you have to be ultra-conscious that your stage bulb is on the left side of the tree. It seems simple, but many mess-ups happen from drivers thinking about their staging, but looking at the wrong bulb. I pay a considerable amount of attention by watching as many quads as possible throughout the weekend and getting the visual cadence down.
Does the level of gamesmanship at the line ratchet up at the Four-Wide Nationals, or is it just double what a regular race would be?
I would say doubled is the right amount. It could seem like more, but it is difficult to tell if someone is staging early or late to be strategic, or just hyper focused on getting their own car properly staged in time. As a driver, you have to expect it all at once.
Tony Stewart Racing is still in the early stages of its inaugural season – does it help that Las Vegas is akin to the conditions you already experienced when you tested at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix and then again when you raced there for the second event of the season?
Vegas might bring some of the most challenging conditions thus far because of its altitude. Neal (Strausbaugh, crew chief) and Mike (Domagala, co-crew chief) have done a great job honing in on what our power band and window looks like, especially since testing last week in Indianapolis. I believe the progress we made last week has accelerated our preparation for Vegas.
What do you want to get out of this race weekend?
We want to get some glowed-up win lights! A Wally is not impossible and out of reach because we have the people and parts do it, but some solid confidence-building momentum through good, quality, clean runs and quick reactions would be a winning hand for us.