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Leah Pruett put together an impressive run in the heat on Friday at New England Dragway. (NHRA photo)

Pruett, Green Take Early Lead At New England Nationals

EPPING, N.H. — Leah Pruett put together an impressive run in the heat on Friday at New England Dragway, rolling to the provisional No. 1 position in Top Fuel at the NHRA New England Nationals.

Funny Car’s Chad Green is also a provisional No. 1 qualifier at the seventh of 21 races during the NHRA season.

Pruett went 3.856 seconds at 319.37 mph in her 11,000-horsepower Rush Truck Centers dragster for Tony Stewart Racing, making one of only a trio of three-second runs in the class on Friday. Pruett is after her first No. 1 qualifier this season and 14th of her career, as well as her first victory the year and at New England Dragway.

The standout performance on Friday also puts Pruett in a good position for Saturday’s Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, where she will take on Josh Hart. It’s the third appearance in the bonus race for Pruett, who will try to pick up her first victory.

The other matchup on Saturday features defending world champ Brittany Force and Chicago winner Clay Millican, with the two victors meeting up to close out Saturday qualifying in what is expected to be dramatically different conditions.

“That 3.85, as we all know, is not going to stay No. 1. That wouldn’t have even qualified at our last race,” Pruett said. “This particular track and these conditions are basically getting everybody to maximize their adaptability, and that shows with us being No. 1. Our crew chiefs are currently in the system of learning the new program, and there is finding this middle ground, and going slower is actually a lot harder than going fast. We’ll work on that tomorrow.

“Going down the track when you run a 3.85 compared to running, like, a 3.64, it’s night and day. But I knew as soon as I got past a second-and-a-half, which is always going to be our trouble zone with our new system, I was like, alright, we’re cruising.

“This track is smooth and we just cruised right on over it. Everything was pretty much flawless, and there is not a lot that we can take away from this run and use for tomorrow, but we’ll go back to a lot of other races.”

Running next to Pruett, Antron Brown posted a strong run as well, moving into the second spot with a run of 3.899 seconds at 310.98 mph. Brown posted a win earlier this season in Las Vegas and is after his second career victory at New England Dragway.

Hart, who has advanced to three straight final rounds this year, was the only other driver to make a three-second run on Friday, going 3.902 seconds at 317.27 mph, putting him in contention for his first career No. 1 qualifier as well.

Green made the best pass on a warm track on Friday in Funny Car, going 4.100 seconds at 310.98 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Bond-Coat, Inc. Ford Mustang. If it holds, it would be Green’s first career No. 1 qualifier as he continues to enjoy a breakout season. Green is currently sixth in points and already has nine round wins this season, plus a victory in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge in Pomona.

He’ll have a chance for a second victory in the special bonus race on Saturday as well, as he will take on Ron Capps in a semifinal rematch from Chicago. The other matchup will feature Chicago winner Tim Wilkerson and John Force, and Green will be focused on having a big Saturday in Epping after his solid start to open qualifying.

“The run felt pretty good. It’s tricky track today, but we were one of the only cars to make it down, so we feel pretty good about that,” Green said. “Tomorrow, the weather situation is going to be totally different than it was today. We have the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge tomorrow, and we’re really excited about that. I’d like to be the first Funny Car driver to win it twice.

“It would mean so much to have this No. 1 at the end of the day tomorrow, but what we really want to do now is get a win. We’ve gone rounds, made it to the semifinals a bunch of times, but we’re ready to take that next step and get that Wally.”

Points leader Matt Hagan, who has won the last two races in Epping and has an NHRA-best four overall victories in Epping, is currently second with a run of 4.123 seconds at 309.13 mph. Capps, the back-to-back world champion in the category, took third with a 4.483 seconds at 199.88 mph.

Capps was the runner-up in Chicago and is after his first win of the season following three trips to the final round.