Driver of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 2 (3.733 E.T. at 312.86 MPH)
E1: 12.703 E.T. at 60.13 MPH defeated by Justin Ashley 3.770 E.T. at 317.79 MPH
Leah Pruett will be the first to admit, her 2021 Top Fuel campaign has not gotten off to the solid start she had hoped for. After enjoying a 19-race streak of advancing to the quarterfinals or beyond, Pruett found herself in unfamiliar territory heading to Houston after having suffered an early first-round exit at the previous two events. She was hoping to change her luck at the Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals Presented by Pennzoil as she sought a repeat of her winning 2017 Houston performance. Pruett began by driving the Pennzoil dragster to the No. 2 position with a 3.722-second pass during the weekend’s only qualifying round. The run held up to be the second-best of the session and pitted her against No. 13 qualifier Justin Ashley in the first round of eliminations. Against Ashley, Pruett was flawless on the starting line, clocking an ultra-quick .020-second reaction time, but her holeshot advantage was short-lived. As soon as Pruett hit the gas, a mechanical malfunction stopped her machine right in its tracks, and she was forced to watch her opponent drive away with the round win.
“Frustration is the word of the day. Unfortunately for us, we were not able to advance out of the first round. Our issues were not caused by tune-up error, nor a driver error. We had a line and fitting that no longer wanted to be married to each other and they disconnected themselves, draining our CO2 bottle after the burnout. So, unfortunately, we did not have the proper pressure to set the clutch where it needed to be and when I hit the gas to leave, we had extra arms in play in the clutch that applied way more power than we had wanted. This is the ultimate proving grounds but I don’t think anybody would be able to make it down the track when you apply all 12,000-horsepower at the same time at the hit. Silver lining in this for us is we still have so much confidence in this team – the driver, the crew chief, the car when it’s not having a bad day. We’re hoping to minimize these terrible days. Thankfully we are still early in the season. Are we impressed with where we sit in the standings? No, but we look forward to getting back after it in Epping. Our heads are not down low; we’re holding them high.”