“Nobody said it was easy. No one ever said it would be this hard.” Coldplay sang those words in the song ‘The Scientist’, but it might reflect the sentiments that two young women drag racers are feeling right now so far this season in Top Fuel.
Leah Pruett and Brittany Force are rookie Top Fuel pilots in 2013 and although they might be gifted with substantial abilities, this season has had plenty of struggles for the young drivers from Southern California.
Both these women come from racing families, so motorsports is in their blood. They’re well grounded and have their feet solidly planted with strong proven backgrounds that have brought them to this point.
Pruett – Hardcore racer
Pruett is a 25 year old who was born in Redlands, California, and currently resides in Indiana. She drives for the Dote family who is based in Ohio. Her father Ron was a land speed driver and early on he had Leah (at the tender age of 8) in a dragsters as part of the NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League – her older sister was also a junior drag racer. Always hands on (think motorhead), Leah won several championships in junior dragsters up until she turned 16. She moved over to California Independent Funny Car Association (CIFCA) driving an Alcohol Funny Car before moving into an altered in the Nostalgia Eliminator class of Goodguys as part of the Nostalgia drag racing scene.
While she started working on a college degree in communications and media marketing, Pruett moved up to Nostalgia Funny Car and sub 6-second runs. At age 19, she almost earned a Funny Car ride with Don Schumacher Racing, but the timing didn’t work out, so Leah continued her Nostalgia racing career. Then three seasons ago, while driving for the legendary Steve Plueger, she won the infamous March Meet and, along the way, the Nostalgia Funny Car championship – clinching the title at the season-ending California Hot Rod Reunion.
The next couple of years, she drove in the NHRA Pro Mod class (source: Yahoo! Sports), gaining three wins in the process before moving up to Top Fuel this year. Due to limited funding, the Dote Racing Top Fueler has missed a couple meets. Pruett and the team did not qualify in their last endeavor at the Summernationals in Englishtown. Leah has three round wins to her credit so far in 2013 and did gain one semifinal appearance.
Force – Racing not first choice
The same can’t be said for Brittany Force who is campaigning in her father John’s first year of Top Fuel racing. The John Force Racing Top Fueler is a new undertaking for John as he’s been a Funny Car driver his entire career and never entertained the thought of building and racing a Top Fueler until recently.
The 26 year old Brittany was born, raised and lives in Yorba Linda, California, which is just 40 miles from where Pruett was born. Brittany has much the same environment as Pruett, coming from a racing family and growing up around drag racing. However, unlike the motorhead that Leah is, Brittany wasn’t attracted to drag racing at first and has kept her options open, having worked hard to be a teacher. After starting in Super Comp as a teenager, Force had some successes in drag racing. She moved up to Top Alcohol Dragster, driving a Jerry Darien prepared A-Fueler; with Brittany nabbing a couple #1 qualifiers along the way.
Brittany has a degree in English and also has teaching credentials. However, since the season started, she and the new team together have had growing pains, learning as students more than anything. Through nine events this year, Force has earned only three round wins and has yet to make a semifinal appearance.
Out, but improving
Force is 13th in points and Pruett 14th; so they have a lot of work to do before they can work their way up into the Top 10 and make the Countdown (playoffs). The good news for both Brittany and Leah is that they’ve earned five round wins between them in just the last three races. Improvement is always a good sign as the season progresses.
They are in a select group of racers who drive the fastest racecars in the world. No doubt each of these two promising rookie drivers will be right back up to the starting line, ready to push their way into contention, or as Coldplay’s The Scientist ends, “I’m going back to the start”. A tough season notwithstanding, with much potential, the careers of Pruett and Force aren’t going anywhere except up.
Additional source: NHRA