Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals
Presented by Pennzoil
Event No. 5 of 21
Houston Raceway Park
May 21-23, 2021
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.
Driver of the Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak
2020 Houston Recap:
Qualified 11th; First round exit (defeated by John Cerbone in E1)
Qualified: No. 10 (7.959 E.T. at 174.73 MPH)
E1: 7.893 E.T. at 174.96 MPH defeated Arthur Kohn 7.950 E.T. at 172.81 MPH
E2: 8.042 E.T. at 163.77 MPH defeated by David Janac 7.863 E.T. at 171.62 MPH
For the second time in 2021, Leah Pruett pulled double duty, swapping seats between her Mopar Dodge Drag Pak and her HEMI-powered Pennzoil Top Fuel dragster. The 2018 Factory Stock Showdown Series champ successfully qualified both entries and was seeking her first win of the season in both classes at Houston Raceway Park. After a frustrating round-one exit on Sunday in Top Fuel, Pruett rolled into Monday’s elimination rounds determined to make it a long day in her Factory car. She ripped off a stellar .029 reaction time in E1 and never trailed for the win over opponent Arthur Kohn. Pruett then lined up next to David Janac in the quarterfinals, and once again, she made sure she had a sizeable starting line advantage, but by halftrack, Janac had caught up and was able to power to victory as Pruett’s car slowed to an 8.042 E.T.
Overall, I have to say the end result of this Factory Stock Showdown weekend here at Houston, given our limited amount of track time, is extremely impressive. We made a lot of changes to this Drag Pak since Gainesville and we were unable to test on the track before Houston, so for us to have only one qualifying session with a soft tune-up and get in the show and win a round, shows we’re heading in the right direction. We picked at it a bit more for E1 and ran a real solid 7.89. We were on track to win in round two but we had a mechanical issue. I felt it, and stuck with it for as long as I could but decided to save on parts and ensure we can make a giant leap in Norwalk. Kevin (Helms) and Terry (Snyder) are doing a great job. We’re on the right path and we’ll keep accelerating it.
Source: Don Schumacher Racing