Mid-Week NHRA News

NHRA’s visit to Houston last weekend started late and finished even later, thanks to the vagaries of weather patterns in the Gulf of Mexico that presaged the upcoming hurricane season. The biggest storm occurred in the Funny Car ranks as Robert Hight finally broke through for his first win since 2019 after John Force Racing sat out all but two early races last year.

Following the Four-Wide Nationals at Charlotte a week earlier, Hight and his JFR team stuck around to test, assisted by race winner and team owner John Force’s Funny Car crew, who reveled after winning that Charlotte race. After two rough outings in a row, Hight needed to know how to get his Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car down the track: he and the team led by Jimmy Prock and Chris Cunningham obviously found something that allowed them to earn the win and jump from ninth to fifth in points, earning Hight a fourth Houston victory.

“We finally got to where we needed to be the last two rounds,” Hight allowed. “We had a really great race car.” Hight raced Don Schumacher Racing’s Ron Capps in the final, the driver looking to bring home the hardware for race sponsor Mopar, after the 2016 Flopper champ brought his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to the finals for his 127th career final round appearance Monday afternoon. “The car is much better than the results we’ve shown, and it’s just been weird stuff. I knew the momentum was coming,” Capps revealed. “We have a great race car. We’re going to have a lot of long days and it’s just really fun right now with our NAPA team.”

Don Schumacher Racing’s Top Fuel standout, Leah Pruett is celebrating her 25th year as a competitor in NHRA drag racing. Yeah, she’s all of 33 years old, but the Redlands, California native got her start at an early age, racing Jr Dragsters the moment she qualified to do so at the age of eight. In 1996, that was the earliest age where a budding racer could compete – and she had to wear a pink ribbon on her rollover bar in order to be noted as a rookie. After her first race – on a Sunday because she was still seven that Saturday – Pruett was able to remove the ribbon.

She’s sporting another interesting ribbon when NHRA’s Camping World Drag Racing Series reconvenes at Epping, New Hampshire for the NHRA New England Nationals next month. This one will be silver, noting her quarter-century of competition.

Photo Courtesy of Pruett Family

From the age of eight until she turned 16, Pruett won 37 Jr Dragster NHRA trophies, along with a pair of Division 7 championships (2000-2001). One of two daughters of an avid land-speed competitor, Pruett rose through the drag racing ranks, winning the 2010 Hot Rod Heritage Series Nostalgia Funny Car championship as she became the first person to exceed the 250mph barrier in this class before moving up the ladder to the Pro Mod Series, where she’s earned three NHRA national event Wally trophies.

Leah Pruett elevated her racing activities when she entered Top Fuel in 2013; she joined Schumacher’s team in 2016 and has recorded a Top Ten result every single year since. She’s also competing in NHRA’s Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown category, which she won in 2018. “My current goal is to transition from success to significance,” Pruett explained. “My whole life, I have chased wins and the resources that enable me to win, which I categorize as the ‘chase for success’. The pursuit of internal significance, where success is then a byproduct, is my current generational focus,” she said. Pruett is the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America’s honorary chairperson for that group’s Class of 2021.

Constant Aviation, which became Factory Stock Showdown’s naming sponsor shortly after the start of the 2021 campaign, is taking its sponsorship seriously by offering a “bounty program” for racers who take down the previous winner. The first of eight races this year was won by second-generation racer Aaron Stanfield, who competes in Pro Stock, as well. There was a $1,000 bounty on his head and it was won by David Barton, who ultimately beat Stanfield with a hole shot victory in the final round. The purpose of the bounty, according to David H. Davies, Constant Aviation CEO, is to “shake things up a little. By introducing the bounty program at Houston Raceway Park,” he said, “we expect to add to the excitement for both fans and drivers.”

Last weekend’s SpringNationals in Houston changed the standings in Pro Stock. Matt Hartford was the winner of the Houston race over Deric Kramer, whose tire shake eliminated him almost from the hit. Hartford knocked out four-time champ Erica Enders in the quarterfinals and Stanfield in the semis to reach a tenth final round. “We’ve had the power to win all year, but not the luck,” Hartford said. With both drivers using KB Racing power in their Chevrolet Camaro race cars, Hartford credited the engine department led by Jason Line, who gave up driving duties in 2021.

NHRA’s standings for its Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock competitors moved a bit. With his final round result, Doug Kalitta – who lost to a rampaging Steve Torrence – moved from seventh to fifth place, moving Josh Hart and Billy Torrence behind him. Bob Tasca III still leads Funny Car after a semifinal result, over J.R. Todd, John Force, Capps and Hight, moving Matt Hagan to sixth and elevating Tim Wilkerson, a semifinal finisher to seventh place. Kramer’s Pro Stock final round appearance shuttled Enders back to third place and placed Hartford in sixth from ninth before he won in Houston.

The NHRA is celebrating Memorial Day away from the race tracks – although many racers are heading for Famoso to race vintage drag racing vehicles this meeting at the March Meet, which is, of course, two months later than usual. With the postponement of Richmond’s race, NHRA contests the TascaParts.com NHRA New England Nationals presented by Bandero Premium Tequila June 11-13, taking place at New England Dragway in Epping, NH.

 

About Anne Proffit 1280 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

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