It’s one of the most important events of the season for Leah Pruett and the Top Fuel star couldn’t be entering this weekend’s 43rd annual Dodge Power Brokers NHRA Mile-High Nationals at legendary Bandimere Speedway on a better note.
Pruett is the defending event winner on Thunder Mountain, a memorable moment where she captured the first Top Fuel victory last season for the first-year Tony Stewart Racing team. But the standout is also the winner of the most recent NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series event in Norwalk this year, meaning things are coming together at an ideal time for Pruett and her team.
Going to a track celebrating a historic 65th anniversary and racing at her sponsor’s event makes the weekend mean even that much more for Pruett, who is currently third in the points standings in her 11,000-horsepower Dodge Direct Connection dragster.
“Building off of (Norwalk) and our notes from last year, it’s going to be incredible,” Pruett said. “This is my favorite track to race on and it’s going to be special. It’s going to be an awesome weekend and we’ve got a really good package right now. As a driver, that gives me confidence. I’ve got a great car that’s extremely drivable and I know we’ve got a car that’s capable of winning races. We are no longer running the same setup we won with last year at this race, so there will still be new challenges for us on the mountain. However, we believe we are better prepared for it than before, which gives us the confidence to have a repeat performance.”
Pruett (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Matt Hartford (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won the 2022 event, and this year’s race be broadcast on both the FOX broadcast network and Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including eliminations coverage starting at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 16 on FOX. It is the 10th of 21 races during the 2023 season and also the first of three races on the famed Western Swing, and there’s no doubt this one means a great deal to Pruett.
The event on Thunder Mountain has always been considered a special race with competitors racing at an elevation of nearly 6,000-feet in front of a packed house in Denver. Pruett loves that challenge and it’s often brought out the best in her in Denver, where she’s claimed two career Top Fuel wins.
This season, she’ll have a chance to win twice in one weekend, as Pruett will also compete in the new Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge on Saturday, which offers a bonus purse and bonus points while bringing competitive racing to qualifying. She’ll take on Austin Prock in a semifinal rematch from Norwalk, while the other matchup in the bonus race features points leader Justin Ashley and defending world champ Brittany Force.
That has Pruett excited for the weekend, as does the chance to win on Sunday in Denver, also competing against the likes of Antron Brown, Josh Hart, Tony Schumacher, Doug Kalitta, Shawn Langdon and Mike Salinas.
“Bandimere Speedway encapsulates for me the meaning of the highest caliber of drag racing,” said Pruett, who has 11 career Top Fuel victories. “I felt that as a child with my only goal in life being to win on the mountain. As I grew older and got the opportunity to come back at the highest level, I believe that energy infused itself into each of the teams I’ve been blessed to work and win with on the mountain. Preparation has always been the standout component to success on the mountain and I’ve never felt more prepared than this year.”
Funny Car’s Hight picked up his fifth career win in Denver a year ago and will look for another while going against points leader Matt Hagan, back-to-back world champ Ron Capps, John Force, Alexis DeJoria, Chad Green and Bob Tasca III.
Hartford enjoyed his first Pro Stock win at Bandimere Speedway last season and enters as the most recent event winner. Others to watch include points leader Dallas Glenn, defending world champ Erica Enders, Aaron Stanfield and Denver native Deric Kramer.
Smith won in Denver for the second straight year a season ago, spurring his run to a sixth world title. The standout is looking for his first win of the season taking on the likes of points leader Gaige Herrera, Angie Smith, Steve Johnson and Hector Arana Jr.
The event also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, as well as the Dodge Charger/Challenger Shootout, which features an eight-car field. The fan-favorite Mountain Motor Pro Stock category will also race in Denver. After nitro qualifying on Friday and Saturday, fans can enjoy a jet car racing exhibition featuring the Team “Muy Caliente” Jet Cars followed by a special fireworks display.
The race also features the NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League Shootout, as well as autograph sessions at the Dodge and Mission Foods Midway Displays, along with performances from the Mountain Vista High School marching band and “The Skyline Drumline.”
Race fans at Bandimere Speedway can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the fan favorite SealMaster Track Walk. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the final Dodge Power Brokers NHRA Mile-High Nationals event winners.
Fans are invited to the Nitro Alley Stage, which will help create a festive atmosphere leading into Nitro Alley. The Nitro Alley Stage will be the main entertainment hub in the pits when the Camping World Drag Racing Series competitors are not on the track, hosting Nitro School, meet and greets and much more. As always, fans get a pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. Fans can see their favorite teams in action and servicing their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers, and more. They can also visit NHRA’s Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, merchandise, food, and fun.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 3:30 and 7:00 p.m. MT on Friday, July 14 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 15 at 2:30 and 6 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. MT on Sunday, July 16. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, and then eliminations on FOX at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday.