Jay Leno Confirms Tesla Model S Plaid Set a Production Car Quarter Mile Record

The famous comedian lent credibility to earlier rumors during his appearance on Spike Feresten's automotive podcast.

Tesla

Telsa's cars have been famous for their straight-line acceleration ever since Ludicrous Mode dropped so many years ago. Recently, unconfirmed reports suggested the electric automaker may have secured the quarter mile record for production cars at a recent test of the Model S Plaid in California.  With little more to go on than the word of an anonymous source, one could be forgiven for holding a skeptical view of the claim. It seems that Jay Leno has put that speculation to rest, though, claiming to have made a record-breaking pass in the car himself in a phone call to Spike's Car Radio, reports Tesmanian.

Reports of the record attempt first dropped in mid-May, with Drive Tesla Canada citing a confidential source who claimed to be on site for the attempt. Occurring at Auto Club Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, California, the informant quoted the Tesla Model S Plaid as laying down a 9.23 second pass with a trap speed of 152.16 miles per hour. They also noted that Jay Leno was in attendance, and that the famous Tonight Show host set a 9.50 second pass, albeit with two passengers on board. 

Tesla

Leno himself shared his account after phoning in to Spike's Car Radio, a podcast that speaks broadly on automotive topics. "I tell ya what I did, I went up to Famoso Dragway in Bakersfield, in a Tesla Plaid. I made one pass, I drove up, had the NHRA guys there to make it official," Leno told Spike Feresten, host of the podcast. "I turned a 9.247 at 152 miles an hour." A link to the podcast is embedded below; Leno begins discussing the Tesla run at 13:50 in. 

Leno's retelling lines up with the previous account in key areas, namely that the record was set at Auto Club Famoso Raceway and that he himself was present. Notably, he doesn't claim that his time was a record, which is an important detail given the prior numbers quoted were marginally quicker than Leno's time—9.23 seconds versus 9.24, and a trap speed of 152.16 mph versus 152.09. While Leno claims to have only made one pass, it's likely that he was referring to a pass aiming at the record, as a slower run with passengers wouldn't set a competitive time. 

Tesla

Captured from Tesla's website at time of writing.

The National Hot Rod Association haven't yet spoken as to whether the Tesla Model S Plaid has bested the record, currently held by the Bugatti Chiron Super Sport at 9.4 seconds. However, given Leno's standing in the car community and reputation, his word can likely be counted as truth when it comes to his own timeslips. It's expected that Tesla will announce the time officially when the first Model S Plaid is delivered on June 10. Notably, the company have updated their Model S page on the Tesla site, quoting a 9.23 second quarter mile time with a 155 mph trap speed.

Further supporting the story is an anonymous source that contacted The Drive by email following the initial post, who stated "I’ve seen video and spoken to someone who was at the Tesla Plaid test in Bakersfield and the number in the story y’all published today is legitimate. Leno was there as were two Tesla supplied drivers. The head of design from Tesla was also there." Expanding on the run, the source said "It’s not any different than what you’ve seen a 3 or, frankly, one of those eCopo Camaros look or sound like. Lots of tire noise and, unlike the Camaro, it looks like a piece of cake to drive."

It seems that Tesla may have the crown for now, though competition is always waiting in the wings. With that said, competitor Lucid have only quoted a quarter mile time of 9.9 seconds for the 2021 Lucid Air, with a prototype only going a touch quicker at 9.245 seconds down the strip. It could be some time until the record falls again; Bugatti held the title from 2018, after all. With the Tesla Roadster still under development, though, the electric automaker may still have some trump cards up its sleeve.

Got a tip? Let the author know: lewin@thedrive.com