Sometimes it's nice to go back where it all started. For Leah Pruett, that means coming back to Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Leah began her career running Jr. Dragsters but there was a little more on the line Sunday, this time for the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals.
Leah qualified 2nd overall in Top Fuel and it seemed like maybe things were starting to turn around on the season after an early season slump plagued with early round losses.
In the first round, Leah faced Steve Chrisman. While this was the first time the two drivers had faced each other in eliminations, Chrisman's first Winternationals was almost forty years ago in 1984. Pruett had the advantage at the start and never looked back as she led wire to wire at 3.906 and 311.77 MPH.
With the second round uncontested Leah was able to take a calm "practice run" but still wrapped up the run with a 3.931 ET at 310.27 MPH. This was the 2nd week in a row where she had a bye run.
In the semi finals, Pruett faced Mike Salinas. With a 3-1 advantage in previous meetings, Leah remained confident. That confidence may have wavered at the start as Salinas took a quick lead but at the halfway point things started to fall apart, literally and Pruett was able to power by for the win.
For the Top Fuel Final, Pruett had lane choice but before the drivers could even make the tree, there was a problem in the cockpit of Justin Ashley. It appeared he was having a heat related issue and without making the start, Ashley needed to be pulled from the car, clearly having problems not only making it to his feet but then standing.
Pruett made a single car run of 4.021 in her Sparkling Ice Spiked dragster to complete the win happily accepting her Wally along the way.
“I first want to say that I hope Justin is doing well because we know how big of a competitor that he is, and for anybody to get out of the car, and a final round at an event like this shows that he was being smart for what is best for him,’ said Pruett. “And I think it also shows how much to a degree of athletes that we are and how important it is to take care of our bodies in our mind and everything of that sort.
“I don't think I've seen as many win lights in my life as I've seen here on this racetrack from the Jr. days to the number of times that we've won in the years previous, but the most impressive part for me today was how our team has continued to persist and persevere and grow into the success region that we have right now.”
Congrats on the win Leah and welcome home!
Check out the NHRA.com race recap by Phil Burgess: