COMP RACER FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS
Life for NHRA Competition Eliminator racer Mathew Leonard is all about setting personal goals and achieving them. Like many racers in the sport, Leonard was also introduced to drag racing at a very young age.
“I’ve been in drag racing my whole life,” Leonard said. “My father was one of the early pioneers of drag racing in Australia and we raced all across Australia when I was growing up. Since I was about ten or eleven, I’ve been at my family’s speed shop which is one of the oldest gas stations still operating in the world.”
In the late 1990’s, Leonard made his way to the United States to help fellow Adelaide, Australia racer Robert Schwab in Top Alcohol Funny Car in 1996 and returned in 1999 when Schwab made the jump to NHRA Nitro Funny Car. After his experience with Schwab’s team, he was invited to go on the NHRA tour as a crew member with Kalitta Motorsports.
“I won three national events with the team,” he said. “I had achieved everything I wanted being a crew member on the professional tour. Racing professionally was a great experience and it was a bucket list goal to go and achieve.”
Leonard currently runs a 1932 Bantam in Competition Eliminator and his dream was always to design, engineer, build, tune, and drive his own racecar.
“I built this car to be a multi-purpose car,” said Leonard. “The Bantam can really run whatever; I’ve raced it in Top Dragster and 7.0 Pro and made this car so I can slide it into whatever class I want to race in. The reason I love Comp is because you’re pushing hard and I can still have an odd combination and a lot of people really like it. You don’t see an altered out on the circuit very much and you don’t see them out on the national tour barely at all.”
Since bringing out his Bantam, Leonard has been consistent with his life path of setting personal goals for himself and achieving them.
“Last year, we came out with a brand-new engine combination,” he added. “We had never run it, we dyno tested it and drove across the country to the U.S Nationals in a yet to be proven car. We ran our personal best on every single run at Indy during qualifying and won the first round. In second round, we didn’t win but I ran a 6.537-second pass at 207.8 mph.”
“The reason I wanted to join Comp was the weight break, the indexes, and the ability to move things around to try to work with classes,” Leonard explained. “It’s a very challenging bracket and keeps you thinking. You’re able to push the boundaries within the designated class you’ve chosen.”
Success on the racetrack is always a bonus for Leonard but he admits that racing with his friends and family is what brings him the most happiness when racing.
“We’re combining the love for motorsports and also family memories into one,” he said. “I like that feel around our racing and that’s how I grew up too. When I went professional racing in America, it didn’t have that family vibe to it much anymore because it’s a business and I knew that going into it. When I went back to my own racing, I wanted to get back to that and get that family environment back into my racing. I’ve been successful in doing that with my good friends that come along and play with us. We have a feast, we laugh, and we enjoy racing.”
Leonard funds most of his operation out of his own pocket but has people that have helped him along the way like B&J Transmissions and his family’s O.G. Speed Shop. Leonard also noted that his wife Lisa and daughter Gemma are the biggest part of his racing.