The lone qualifying session for the nitro Funny Cars and Top Fuel dragsters at the New England Nationals was moved up to 1 p.m. (ET) Friday because rain was in the forecast for later, on top of the originally scheduled time.

The time didn’t do many Top Fuel drivers any favors, but Leah Pruett wasn’t complaining.

The Tony Stewart Racing driver clocked a solid 3.856-second run at 319.37 mph in the conditions to take the provisional No. 1 qualifying spot.

“That 3.85, as we all know, is not going to stay No. 1,” Pruett said. “That wouldn’t have even qualified at our last race. This particular track and these conditions are basically getting everybody to maximize their adaptability, and that shows with us being No. 1. Our crew chiefs are currently in the system of learning the new program, and there is forward, and backward learning and finding this middle ground, and going slower is actually a lot harder than going fast. We’ll work on that tomorrow.”

Friday’s start is Pruett’s 201st career NHRA Top Fuel race. She has 13 career No. 1 qualifying positions, the most recent coming in Sonoma, Calif., in 2022.



“Going down the track when you run a 3.85 compared to running, like, a 3.64, it’s night and day,” she said. “Comparatively, it’s kind of like cruising down the highway. But I knew as soon as I got past a second-and-a-half, which is always going to be our trouble zone with our new system, I was like, alright, we’re cruising, got no holes out. This track is smooth, to some degree, and we just cruised right on over it. Everything was pretty much flawless, and there is not a lot that we can take away from this run and use for tomorrow, but we’ll go back to a lot of other races.”

Pruett has ten career NHRA Top Fuel wins, the last coming in July of 2022 at the Mile-High Nationals in Denver. She entered Epping fifth in the points standings, highlighted by a runner-up finish at the Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, N.C., April 30.

The Top Fuel drivers will have two qualifying sessions on Saturday to get in position for race day Sunday.