Event No. 1 of 22
March 12-14, 2021
Mopar Dodge//SRT Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 3 (3.741 E.T. at 326.32 MPH)
E1: 3.787 E.T. at 314.09 MPH defeated Mike Bucher 7.686 E.T. at 81.27 MPH
E2: 3.887 E.T. at 294.05 MPH defeated by Shawn Langdon 3.764 E.T. at 317.79 MPH
Leah Pruett was a solid competitor in the 2020 Top Fuel championship chase and after securing her third consecutive fourth-place finish last year, Pruett has made it known that she is laser-focused on making sure she and her team are in the hunt once again this season. Pruett began her 2021 campaign by powering the Mopar Dodge//SRT Top Fuel dragster to the third-quickest pass of the final qualifying session to secure the No. 3 starting position. In round one of eliminations, she faced Top Fuel newbie Mike Bucher. Pruett was first to stand on the throttle and drove to victory while her opponent succumbed to instant tire smoke in the opposite lane. Round two found Pruett squaring off with on-track rival Shawn Langdon, and once again Pruett was first to launch, ripping off a .054 reaction time. Unfortunately for the double-duty driver who spent the weekend swapping back and forth between her Top Fuel rail and Dodge Drag Pak Challenger, her machine dropped a cylinder early into the run allowing Langdon to take the lead by the 330-foot timing block and pull away with the win.
I think there’s an overall consensus that the 2021 Gatornationals was a little unconventional for us as we experienced some issues early in qualifying on the first lap but we quickly adapted and had a very competitive race car for Sunday. Unfortunately, we started off this season with some mechanical gremlins. Our team, with the addition of a few new members, has done a great job meshing quickly. The tuning calls were great, but some parts failures plagued us this weekend. After that, you shake their hands and say good job and know that we have the heart and ability to get round wins and race wins. Overall, we feel good about the weekend. Walking away from eliminations, there’s nothing that we would have done differently. We’ll get to the bottom of it and roll on to the next Camping World NHRA race and be ready to win.
Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak
Qualified: No. 13 (7.892 E.T. at 173.49 MPH)
E1: 7.806 E.T. at 177.44 MPH defeated by John Cerbone 7.808 E.T. at 174.80 MPH
Leah Pruett took her 2021 Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak for its first official eliminations drive as a No. 13 qualifier against the No. 4 seed John Cerbone. Pruett drove the new generation Drag Pak to her career-best Factory Stock Showdown run, resetting both ends of her personal record with a stout 7.806-second pass at 177.44 mph, bettering her previous top time of 7.852 seconds set at Gainesville in 2019 and best speed of 173.94 mph posted at Charlotte that same year. Unfortunately, while her new ride was faster on the track than her opponent’s, Pruett fell just short of turning on the first win-light of the season as her impressive run was overshadowed by her competitor’s 0.002-second start to give him the holeshot victory over the 2018 Factory Stock Showdown Series champion.
The ‘shake their hands and walk away’ mentality definitely applies to our first round of Factory Stock (Showdown) round one this morning. Just an incredible package and race. John Cerbone had a .002 light and was two thousandths (of-a-second) slower than us at the stripe, and that would have required me to have a .004 reaction time. Right now, for me, those kinds of lights aren’t quite in the cards. I need a bit more seat time getting acquainted with this new Dodge SRT Drag Pak Challenger. Hats off to the entire DSR Factory Stock team, Terry (Snyder), Kevin (Helms), and everyone at Dodge and the SRT engineers for getting this great piece of machinery ready for us to debut this weekend at Gainesville. We were able to get this car into competition-form very quickly and I’m looking forward to some more seat time before our next race at Houston in May. We had a very good showing for the debut of the Drag Pak and we’re looking forward to maximizing all of its capabilities. What we saw today in round one is a testament to the type of competition this team and Dodge brings. Our competitors know that they have to step up to that level in order to try and beat us. We’re going to continue to be on top of our game, and pick away at it some more, and I’m confident we’ll have a very strong season
Photos: Mark Rebilas @rebilasphoto
Source: Don Schumacher Racing