Leah Pruett walks away from scary NHRA Top Fuel Crash

Top Fuel driver Leah Pruett is currently in 3rd place of the 2020 NHRA Mello Yellow Drag Racing series. The entire nitro and noise circus is currently in Illinois and there are less than a handful of races in the season. But the one this past weekend was filled with action and a showcase of how well the safety features of a modern dragster really are built. We learned this with a clear lesson after watching Pruett’s Mopar monster snap in half and then take flight.

The dragster buckles in the middle not long after Leah leaves the starting line. That chassis failure leads to Pruett’s machine heading into the sky and sending her on a terrifying ride. Thankfully, the safety features all work as designed. The driver cell protects her as the chutes immediately come out and keep this crash from heading in more insane directions. And then the track safety workers are out to Leah in short order, but, amazingly, she gets out of the cockpit on her own. She appears a bit rattled but otherwise unhurt. Anyone would be pretty damn rattled by that. Just standing near the starting line of a Top Fuel event and witnessing the cars leave is enough to scramble your brain.

That was a crazy failure, a wild ride, and the only kind of result we can hope for when something like that happens. Hopefully, Pruett is cleared to get back behind the wheel and keep competing for her 2020 podium finish.

11 Comments

  1. Ii wouldn’t be surprised to see a rule change to change the underside of the car so that there isn’t so much surface area for the wind to push against.

    Are they still calling the season “Mello Yello” after Coke cut off the money spigot?

    1. I dunno how much underbody aero has to do with it, I’d guess it’s a combination of already having enough horsepower to stand the car straight up and having a huge rear wing while the front wing is no longer attached to the car

  2. Why did it disintegrate though? Surely these cars are built to take the strain? Metal fatigue?

      1. The chromoly tube frames on the cars are spliced, due to metal fatigue in the long span between the front axle and the cockpit. You can see this process at about 23 minutes in, in Season 1 Episode 3 of Mike Brewer’s World of Cars. In this episode Mike visits with Antron Brown, and travels with Antron to Don Schumacher’s shop, where Antron’s and Leah’s cars are built. We get to see the frame on Antron’s car being cut and spliced, and it’s spliced in two places – right behind the front axle, and just forward of the cockpit. So it’s possible it failed at the rear splice. Or it could be that it was just a random failure, not caught before the frame was due to be spliced.

    1. I know the chassis is designed to flex, as for the panels they are the thinnest of carbon fiber with the minimum of dzus fasteners. As to why it folded in half my guess would be fatigue like yours.

  3. I find professional drag racing an odd trailblazer in gender equality. For as down-home, good-ol’-boy as it has always been, it seems to be the one sport (motor or otherwise) where women competing against men at the top echelon has ceased to even be much of a novelty.

  4. She’s fortunate that she had the presence of mind to pull the chutes, and that the front of what was left of the car didn’t hit the wall. I mean, where it snapped, her feet were right there. It reminds me of Danny Ongais’ (ironically a Top Fueler) crash at Indy in 1981. Danny’s legs were sticking out of the front of the monocoque.

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