Leah Pruett and her ProCare Rx Pro Mod team had their swagger back at Bristol Dragway for the 12th annual running of the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, but a rare parts failure ended her weekend much sooner than expected.
Pruett qualified No. 8 with a pass of 6.005 seconds at 251.02 mph in her turbocharged Ford Mustang before falling in the first round with a broken throttle body.
"It's disappointing, for sure," Pruett said. "I was really working on my lights, cutting some .040s, and I felt like I was back in the game. I don't know, the stars aren't quite lining up like we'd like them to. We definitely need to take a more focused look on our inventory and make sure everything we have is completely spot-on and ready to go in the car. The guys do that already, but it was a five-minute fix that caused the problem.
"That happens to everybody, and it happened to us. But I have no doubt that both Roger (Burgess, team owner/driver) and my cars will be in top shape, and we'll be ready to take on everybody in Norwalk."
R2B2 Racing teammate Burgess qualified No. 11 before falling in a close matchup with Mike Castellana in the first round. Castellana went 6.009 at 239.02 mph to beat Burgess' 6.078 at 247.88 mph.
Pruett, meanwhile, came to Bristol off a No. 2 qualifier in Englishtown, hoping to continue the solid performance.
"We had some good momentum coming into this weekend," Pruett said. "We had some good juju and positive attitudes. The car was running well."
Pruett made her best qualifying pass in the heat of the day in Saturday's Q3.
"It definitely ran a good number in Q3 in the heat, and then we had some parts failure during that run," Pruett said. "The guys went into a thrash and got it ready for E1."
As they were about to head out for the first round of eliminations, the crew found a problem atop the engine.
"We found out right at the very last minute that the throttle body was broke, and that's why we were having idle problems," Pruett said. "We switched that out and were real late to the line, but we thought everything was ready to go."
The engine, however, wasn't running well.
"The car barely turns over and runs, and I'm doing everything I can to keep it alive with the throttle just to maintain the throttle," Pruett said. "From there on out, it just went downhill real fast. With the throttle body breaking, it starting closing all on its own, no matter how much throttle I gave it.
"I'm spooled up with the throttle all the way to the floor, but when I left, it was only at 30 percent compared to 100 percent, which is what we needed."
The balky throttle body caused Pruett to leave with a .310-second reaction time, but Lang smoke the tires down the track.
"I left, and it just fell on its face," Pruett said. "I didn't know what happened. Then I saw Knowles smoking the tires, and I think, 'Oh, we're going to get him. This turbocharged car is going to hunt it down.' Then it was like someone just tied a ton of bricks to the back of the car, and it just stopped. I couldn't even get it into third gear.
"By the time I got to half-track, the throttle just completely shut on its own, even though I've got it mashed to the floor."
With that, her day was done.
Pruett and the ProCare Rx team race next in the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio on July 6-8.