With Leah Pruett, there are really two ways to look at the testing in Bradenton, Fla., culminating in the PRO Superstar Shootout. It's either bitter or sweet, but no bittersweet. 

Pruett is driving her Top Fuel dragster for the last time this season before taking a hiatus to start a family with her husband and substitute driver, Tony Stewart.

"Right now, it's really just sweet," Pruett said. "I think that's because I've thought about it for a long time, and we've properly prepared for the transition, and I've had time to evaluate my emotions through it."

The bitter part, and she's not bitter about it by any means, but believes NHRA should consider an amendment to their driver substitution policies to accommodate their growing female participation in terms of pregnancy. In the past, the largely male contingent of drivers never faced this dilemma for obvious reasons. 

"I really did hope that NHRA would've taken this opportunity to create a pregnancy protocol," Pruett suggested. "We are the leading motorsports globally when it comes to dominant women in pretty much every category. So I'm not the only one going through this decision. So I hope that what I'm doing will set a new standard and give NHRA the opportunity to be a front-runner in this."

A recent driver replacement protocol issued to drivers didn't address the issue, and this disappoints Pruett. She could start the season, but if she becomes pregnant, the season would be for naught.

And also standing in the way could be her participation in the Pep Boys Allstar Callout, and based on the NHRA's interpretation of their entry/withdrawal memo, she would have to enter the NHRA Gatornationals and race since the event is on Saturday. 

Austin Prock is running Funny Car this season, and since NHRA rules prohibit him from running professional categories, his spot was handed to first alternate Shawn Langdon. 



As far as Pruett sees it, the issues will be what the issues will be. At Bradenton, she was committed to giving her team the best test driver she could be, which was good enough to qualify for the PRO Superstar Shootout. She ran in the 3.60s during testing. 

"It's a system," Pruett said. "We made some crew changes, moving people around so that their skill level upgrades and gets varied. And just like last season, this is why I get excited. Last preseason, we had the long game in mind. We knew the innovation that we were trying to execute, and in the beginning, it didn't look promising. It got a little bit more promising.

"We were able to implement it by Charlotte, and then we committed to it so that we felt like we had a confident program by the Countdown, and our Countdown performance really showed, and that's what makes me excited about this."

Pruett is prepared to put her rookie Top Fuel substitute in the best chance to win a world championship since Gary Scelzi pulled off the feat in 1997. 

"What we're doing right now is for the long game when Tony is in the car and in a championship hunt, that will be in that same fighting position.," Pruett explained. "I don't know. I think I might even get more nervous outside the car watching Tony in it, but I'm going to miss going fast. But hopefully we're able to start a family at some point and then I'll be able to come back. That's the plan."

Right now, Pruett knows she is doing the right thing. 

"I always heard about females and their biological clocks and things like that," Pruett said. "I don't feel like I have that, this isn't particularly, yes, I do want a family, but making this move now because I'm 35, I don't want to, as women get older, the more challenges that they have. So just trying to be as proactive about things as possible. 

"Sure. Would I like to hold on like a male, be able to race, and have a family? [Those options] just aren't my cards."