Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) pilot Leah Pruett closed out the National Hot Rod Association’s (NHRA) three-event Western Swing by taking her Sparkling Ice +Caffeine Dodge//SRT Top Fuel dragster from the No. 12 seeded position to a semifinal appearance at the Northwest Nationals near Seattle, Washington.
Pruett drove to a 3.897-second elapsed time pass in the final qualifying session to secure the spot on the eliminations ladder that paired her with No. 5 qualifier Antron Brown for the opening round. She kicked off eliminations by beating Brown on the tree by 0.003 seconds, then battling it out the entire length of the track before the Dodge//SRT dragster turned on the win lights with Pruett’s quickest run of the weekend, a 3.781-second pass @ 325.69 mph to defeat her opponent’s 3.796 sec. @ 320.81 mph effort.
In the quarterfinals, Pruett had another close battle with No. 4 qualifier Doug Kalitta whom she chased down with a (0.080-second reaction time) 3.818 sec. @ 322.42 mph run to better his (0.075-second RT) 3.827 sec. @ 316.67 mph pass and take the round win with a 0.0041-second margin of victory. That set up a semifinal match-up with Brittany Force against whom a loss of traction at the start of the lap sent Pruett’s chances to challenge the current Top Fuel points leader up in smoke and ended what has been a solid three-week campaign for her TSR team.
Pruett’s performance over the three-event Western Swing included a big win at the Dodge Power Brokers Mile-High Nationals near Denver, a No. 1 qualifier position, and a quarterfinal appearance at the Sonoma Nationals, and with the addition of Sunday’s semifinal appearance at the Northwest Nationals she sits solidly sixth in the Top Fuel championship standings with three events remaining in the regular season.
TSR teammate Matt Hagan came into the Western Swing second in the Funny Car championship standings after a strong start to the year that included three wins aboard his Dodge Power Brokers Charger SRT Hellcat. After initially kicking off the series of three consecutive events with a No. 1 qualifier position at the Dodge Power Brokers Mile-High Nationals, the team has since encountered a few challenges.
Following a pair of uncharacteristic first-round exits at Denver and Sonoma, Hagan had hoped to drive from his 12th place qualifying position at Pacific Raceways to four quality elimination runs on Sunday beginning with a showdown against No. 3 qualifier John Force. The Dodge Power Brokers Charger SRT Hellcat launched first and took the early lead but started to lose power just as Force began to lose traction. By then it was too late for Hagan as his opponent pedaled it enough to make it to the finish ahead of him. Despite the third consecutive opening round loss, Hagan remains solidly in second place behind category points leader and eventual event winner Robert Hight.
Fellow Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat driver Cruz Pedregon put in another solid qualifying effort to put himself No. 4 on the eliminations ladder and set up for a first-round pairing with No. 9 seed Tim Wilkerson. While his opponent had a quicker start, Pedregon’s Snap-on Tools HEMI®-powered Funny Car took over the lead in the first few feet until it began to haze the tires and drop cylinders. While Wilkerson also had traction issues, he was able to make his way to the finish first and brought Pedregon’s race day to a premature end. Despite the setback, Pedregon is seventh in Funny Car points and firmly among the top ten positions with expectations of making the “Countdown to the Championship” playoffs.
The NHRA will take a one-week break before returning to competition for the 14th of 22 events on the 2022 schedule at the Menards NHRA Nationals Presented By PetArmor at Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka, Kansas.
NHRA CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS:
Following the Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways
FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1. Robert Hight 1250 (6)
2. Matt Hagan (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat): 1022 (3)
3. Ron Capps: 956 (2)
4. John Force: 904
5. Bob Tasca III: 797 (1)
6. J.R. Todd: 708
7. Cruz Pedregon (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat): 686
8. Alexis DeJoria: 659
9. Tim Wilkerson: 574
10. Jim Campbell: 457
TOP FUEL (season wins in parentheses)
1. Brittany Force: 1083 (5)
2. Mike Salinas: 1008 (3)
3. Justin Ashley: 910 (2)
4. Steve Torrence: 862
5. Josh Hart: 689
6. Leah Pruett (Dodge Power Brokers): 673 (1)
7. Shawn Langdon: 657
8. Doug Kalitta: 624
9. Austin Prock: 602
10. Clay Millican: 583