Leah Pruett isn't making any apologies for her current standing as the points leader of the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Top Fuel charts with just two races remaining in the season.
And, no, she's not feeling bad for six-win Justin Ashley, who scored a series-leading six wins in this year's regular season. After all, in the NHRA's Countdown to the Championship, it all comes down to getting hot at the right time—specifically the last six races.
Pruett, who has just two wins this season (at Norwalk and Dallas), has played the NHRA Countdown just well enough to put herself into a position to where she at least controls her own championship destiny. She's made the finals the last two races and was the winner in Texas.
Next up is this weekend's NHRA Nevada Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
There's nothing wrong, she says, with playing by the rules. If that means taking advantage of a championship system that rewards peaking at the right time—even if it means the most consistent or even winningest car of the season doesn't win the championship—so be it.
"I feel that those who are competing full time should have an opportunity to win the championship," Pruett said. "I've been on both sides of it. (If there's) nothing you can do about it, then move on, put your focus somewhere else. That's exactly what this team did."
Pruett finished the regular season before the points reset in fourth place in the championship—296 points behind Ashley. The reset following that regular-season finale at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis pulled Pruett to just 58 points back of Ashley.
Now, thanks in large part to a double-up win for Pruett and her Tony Stewart Racing teammate Matt Hagan at Dallas, Ashley and the rest of the Top Fuel field are looking up at new points leader Pruett. Pruett leads Doug Kalitta by four points, four-time champion Steve Torrence by 13 points, and Ashley by a distant 108.
Hagan. who opened the Countdown 24 points back of two-time defending champion Ron Capps, is now the leader in Funny Car by 36 points over Bob Tasca, 69 over Robert Hight and 99 over Capps.
“This Dallas race has become my greatest racing memory overall,” says Pruett. “That’s how monumental this win was for me and being a part of the TSR team, and with Matt winning for where we are at in the Countdown."
Pruett added she has an opportunity to push that Dallas win off the top spot on the list with a great finish and possible Top Fuel title. And, yes, she'll still cherish her previous championships in the Factory Stock Showdown and Heritage series.
"It's like kids—and I don't have them—but they say you love them the same but you love them differently, and that's the way I feel about my championships and where we're at," Pruett said.
On the other hand, Pruett is not dusting off a place in the trophy case for that first NHRA Top Fuel championship hardware just yet. There's still races this week at Las Vegas and the final day of eliminations on Nov. 12 at Pomona.
"We're four points ahead, right," Pruett said. "That means like literally nothing. It means you get to be in the back for Q1 at Vegas and have just a slightly better qualifying position and see who's ahead of you.
"And within one round, everything can change, so you really try not to get any more ahead than the reality of it."