NHRA Sonoma Nationals
Event No. 9 of 20
July 23-25, 2021
Driver of the Okuma Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 6 (3.749 E.T. at 323.97 MPH)
E1: 3.739 E.T. at 327.51 MPH defeated Justin Ashley 3.758 E.T. at 323.04 MPH
E2: 3.958 E.T. at 288.64 MPH defeated Brittany Force 4.359 E.T. at 181.18 MPH
E3: 3.726 E.T. at 325.53 MPH defeated BYE
E4: 3.768 E.T. at 323.04 MPH defeated by Steve Torrence 3.757 E.T. at 327.98 MPH
After clocking a ‘top three’ run on Friday night under the Sonoma Raceway lights, Leah Pruett qualified the Okuma Top Fuel dragster sixth for an opening-round pairing with No. 7 seed Justin Ashley. Pruett was quicker off the start and never trailed with a 3.739-second run at 327.51-mph to defeat her opponent and move on to battle Brittany Force in the quarterfinals for their first match-up since 2018.
Force held the early lead for the quarterfinal battle, but when mid-track traction issues affected them both, it was Pruett who pedaled it and recovered quickly to cross the finish line first and earn a Bye run into the final round. During that solo semifinal run, the Okuma rail recorded low E.T. of the event, posting a 3.726.
In Pruett’s 17th Top Fuel final round appearance, she staged up opposite Steve Torrence, the category’s point leader and five-time event winner this season. Sonoma fans were treated to an exciting side-by-side final showdown that saw Pruett and Torrence glued down the dragstrip until just before the finish line when her opponent pulled ahead to claim the narrow victory. The runner-up finish is Pruett’s first of the season, ninth of her Top Fuel career, and allowed her to advance three spots up to fifth in the Countdown to the Championship point rankings.
I think the most impressive thing about this weekend is our progression from last weekend at Denver. These Top Fuel cars don’t necessarily have a full reset button, but that’s what we did as a team this weekend. We dug deep and found some issues and ultimately, we had great progress this weekend. To have such a consistent car from qualifying into eliminations and to put down what we needed to in the semifinals to get lane choice was great to see. We have a very conversational car that listens to us right now. The team is thriving. We didn’t have the start to the season we wanted, but this is a marathon of a year and this is the momentum we’ve been searching for. For Don (Schumacher) to give us the patience and resources to do what we needed to get here has allowed us to open possibilities and that’s what Okuma does. It’s great to win rounds and get to the finals. It was a very close race. We can’t wait to get Sparkling Ice on the car and spike ‘em next weekend.
Source: Don Schumacher Racing