Story By: NHRA – DENVER, CO – Coming off the best race of her 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season, Leah Pruett is ready keep that momentum going at one of the Top Fuel standout’s most important races of the season, this weekend’s 42nd annual Dodge Power Brokers NHRA Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway.
It’s her sponsor’s race, as well as the first race in the famed three-race NHRA Western Swing. Winning on Thunder Mountain has always been important for Pruett, who grabbed a Denver victory in 2018, and that’s especially true during the 2022 season.
She’s the Top Fuel driver in the 11,000-horsepower Dodge Power Brokers dragster for the first-year Tony Stewart Racing team, which puts the spotlight on Pruett for several reasons. After advancing to the semifinals at the most recent race in Norwalk, Pruett is ready to embrace that spotlight in what she hopes is her first winning weekend of 2022.
“Our minds are on Mile-High and the necessary changes the car needs from different pistons, the uniqueness of the event, how the car has cooperated in the last couple races, to fuel adjustments are all just precursors for the Dodge Power Brokers event,” Pruett said. “It is going to be one to win, I’ve always said it. Some people think the U.S. Nationals are a big one. Winning the Dodge Power Brokers Mile-High Nationals would be the pinnacle of the year, in my opinion. That is where our backbone is, on top of that mountain.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won the 2021 event, and this year’s race will be broadcast on both the FOX broadcast network and Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including live eliminations coverage starting at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 17 on FOX. It is the 11th of 22 races in 2022, marking the halfway point of the season, and Pruett is eager to make it a memorable second half.
There’s been the expected ups and downs of a new team, but Pruett has stayed positive throughout, praising the work ethic of a team continuing to grow together. She believes the payoff will come soon and it could happen in Denver, though there are several challenges. The first is the racing conditions unique to Thunder Mountain, where the NHRA stars will race at an elevation of nearly 6,000-feet. Pruett will also have to deal with the likes of points leader Mike Salinas, who has four wins this season, four-time defending world champ Torrence, Brittany Force, who has three wins in 2022, Justin Ashley, Antron Brown, and Austin Prock, but she likes how her team has continued to perform under pressure.
“We performed well in Norwalk with our Detroit executives at the track, and we intend to do the same and build on that for Denver,” Pruett said. “We needed a bit of this rejuvenation. We have a healthy program and that’s also very important. There are teams out here running on the edge and hurting a lot of parts. Our healthy program will allow us to push, which will allow us to qualify better and get on top of that mountain.”
In Funny Car, Pruett’s TSR teammate tasted his first success on Thunder Mountain a year ago, as three-time world champion Hagan crossed a Denver win off his bucket list in 2021. That was a huge win for Hagan and the standout certainly has plenty of momentum heading into the weekend in his 11,000-horsepower Dodge Power Brokers Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. He’s currently second in points, picking up three wins already in 2022, and a fourth would be a big deal for Hagan.
Back-to-back Denver wins would be huge for the longtime standout who had waited for years to win on the mountain. Getting two straight would continue his strong season and position Hagan well for the second half of the year, but it won’t be easy going against a loaded field that includes points leader Robert Hight, who has four wins in 2022, 16-time world champ John Force, defending world champ Ron Capps, Alexis DeJoria, who lost to Hagan in the finals last year, Bob Tasca III, Cruz Pedregon and J.R. Todd.
“I’m looking forward to getting to Denver for the Dodge Power Brokers Mile-High Nationals. We’ve been able to build upon our data and Dickie Venables (crew chief) has been putting a great car underneath me,” Hagan said. “We’ll be taking a different car combination to Bandimere in regard to the motor, clutch, and blower. You can wick your blowers up and the compression is crazy with the elevation. We have a great car we won there with last year, so we put that on the shelf, didn’t touch it and we’re going to bring it back out and put it on the race car. I look forward to having a successful weekend in Denver, which is what we need to do. With it being a Dodge Power Brokers race, we want to give them a strong showing.”
Pro Stock returns to Denver and Bandimere Speedway for the first time since 2019 and everyone is chasing points leader Erica Enders, who has been on a dominant run to open the 2022 season. The four-time world champ has five wins thus far and will look for her first career win on Thunder Mountain. Trying to prevent that are a host of title contenders, including reigning world champ Greg Anderson, who is after career win No. 100, Aaron Stanfield, who has two wins this season, Gainesville winner Dallas Glenn, Kyle Koretsky, rookie Camrie Caruso, local resident Deric Kramer and Bo Butner.
Smith went 13 years between Denver wins, but the defending world champ in Pro Stock Motorcycle impressed last year with his victory. He’ll look to keep rolling on Thunder Mountain and pick up his first win of 2022, but Smith will have his hands full against a loaded lineup that includes rival and points leader Steve Johnson, who has never won in Denver, Norwalk winner Angelle Sampey, Angie Smith, four-time race winner Eddie Krawiec, Joey Gladstone, Jerry Savoie, and Gainesville winner Karen Stoffer.
The event also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, which includes some of the sport’s top drivers, as well as the Mile High No Time Big Tire Shootout. After nitro qualifying on Friday and Saturday, fans can enjoy a spectacular jet car racing exhibition featuring the Team “Muy Caliente” Jet Cars. There will be a special fireworks display after racing on Friday and Saturday as well. The race also features the NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League shootout, with eight young drivers competing for the win. The final round will take place on Sunday and will be featured during the FOX broadcast.
Race fans at Bandimere Speedway can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the fan favorite SealMaster Track Walk. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA Mile-High Nationals event winners.
As always, fans also get an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet in Denver. This unique opportunity gives fans a unique chance to see teams in action and service their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers and more. Fans can also visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family. The new Pep Boys midway display will include tire change challenges, oil change challenges, a slot car track and much more, adding even more excitement to the midway.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 3:30 and 7:00 p.m. MT on Friday, July 15 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 16 at 2:30 and 6 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. MT on Sunday, July 17. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 10:00 p.m. ET on Friday, 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, and then eliminations on FOX at 4 p.m. ET Sunday.