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Stardom, Success & Significance
Leah Pruett Celebrates 25th NHRA Anniversary
On May 26, 2021, Leah Pruett turned 33 years old. And while birthdays are always a momentous occasion, this particular celebration was extra special for Pruett as it marked the 25th anniversary – to the day – that her NHRA career began.
Pruett, a native of Redlands in Southern California, grew up around racing and her journey to becoming a bonafide championship-contender in the NHRA’s premier Top Fuel category started when she officially joined the NHRA’s Jr. Dragster youth racing program on her eighth birthday.
Pruett was bitten by the racing bug early on. Her father, Ron, was an avid land speed racer and her sister, Lindsey, who is four years older, was already competing in the Jr. Dragster program by the time Pruett had turned six. Back in 1996, aspiring drag racers had to wait until their eighth birthday to be able to strap into a Jr. car and enter an event, and Pruett was chomping at the bit to have her shot on the dragstrip.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” said Pruett, who has become the No. 1 ranked social media influencer among NHRA drivers and personalities, cementing her place as one of the sport’s brightest stars. “That weekend, my birthday was on a Sunday. I had my car ready to go but I wasn’t allowed to race at all on Saturday. I just had to sit and wait until Sunday when I turned the legal age of eight. I had to run a big pink ribbon on my roll cage that signaled to the world that I was ‘as rookie as a rookie could get.’ I had already moved past my ‘pink’ phase in those days and I couldn’t wait to get that ribbon off my car, which you weren’t able to do until you competed in an event.”
“I was in the left lane, and did a blistering 21-second pass to the eighth-mile at 24-mph,” added Pruett, who will be running a silver ribbon on her 334.15-mph DSM Precision Manufacturing Top Fuel dragster at the upcoming NHRA New England Nationals in Epping, N.H., signifying her 25th ‘silver’ NHRA anniversary. “It was a gas-powered, five-horsepower Briggs & Stratton pull-string Jr. Dragster. From five-horsepower, the most basic as you can get, to now driving the fastest accelerating machine on earth; it’s still one of those things that is hard to wrap my head around.”
That ‘pink ribbon day’ was only the beginning for Pruett, an eight-time Top Fuel winner. From age eight to 16, she won a whopping 37 Jr. Dragster trophies, and two Division 7 championships in 2000 and 2001. From there, she rose through the drag racing ranks, competing in the NHRA’s Hot Rod Heritage Series where she won the 2010 championship title in the Nostalgia Funny Car category and became the first person to break the 250-mph barrier in the class before moving into the Pro Mod Series where she is a three-time NHRA national event winner.
Pruett transitioned to the professional Top Fuel category in 2013. She joined Don Schumacher Racing in 2016, and has recorded a Top 10 finish every year since. In 2017, she added ‘double-duty driver’ to her impressive racing resume when she announced that she would be competing in the NHRA’s new Factory Stock Showdown Series in addition to her responsibilities behind the wheel of a Top Fuel dragster.
It quickly became evident that Pruett would have no problem perfecting the art of swapping back and forth between her Dodge Drag Pak and dragster when in 2018, she was crowned the Factory Stock Showdown champ during her first full season competing in the class.
While Pruett, who has held NHRA competition licenses in seven different categories, has checked a lot of boxes on her racing bucket list since 1996, in her mind, she’s only just getting started.
“It’s very difficult to define one favorite memorable moment of partnering with Mopar®, but if I had to choose, it would be the feeling of completing a full circle of my goals and experiences with them. Specifically, it would be the first time I attended the Mopar Mile-High Nationals at 18 years old as a fan. I was enamored with how Mopar created the best fan experience ever, from the block party to the midway to the racing. I had never experienced anything like that. I was stoked to have a seat in the grandstands and watch the nitro cars, and only dreamed of how cool it would be to race that event someday in Top Fuel. Fast forward to 2018 when we won that event in Top Fuel, on the mountain, at the ultimate Mopar race with the highest-elevated Mopar fans in the world. It was something I could barely dream to happen. And then, topping that victory off with the best winner’s circle celebration of burning the tires of the newly-released 1320 Angry Bee Dodge Challenger which matched our Angry Bee Top Fuel dragster was all-time.”
“I believe my proudest Mopar moments, though, live within the Drag Pak program. Working with the SRT engineers to win the NHRA championship, and accomplishing the goal of accelerating and reclaiming Mopar’s place in the drag racing Sportsman space felt like a truly encompassing accomplishment.”
“Mopar has made my dreams come true of not only piloting and winning in the nitro ranks, but allowing me the opportunity to be a valuable variable of significance beyond the win light.”