Tony Stewart’s next racing venture will be in the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) as a team owner. Stewart is starting a new drag racing program that will field two full-time entries in 2022.
His team, Tony Stewart Racing, will continue to operate its sprint car program in Brownsburg, Indiana, while adding entries in different NHRA classes next year. Leah Pruett, Stewart’s fiancée, will drive for the team in Top Fuel. Matt Hagan will drive for the team in Funny Car.
Stewart has deep roots in the racing world as a NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee, a three-time Cup champion and a co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing. He was a co-founder of the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) series that aired on CBS last summer, and said that he’s become increasingly interested in NHRA events since last year when he and Pruett began dating.
“Beginning with Don Schumacher, I’ve probably annoyed everyone in the paddock with all the questions I’ve asked, but the more I learned about drag racing, the less I wanted to just be a spectator,” Stewart said in a statement.
Schumacher is a well-established NHRA team owner that Pruett and Hagan compete for. Pruett is in her 25th consecutive season in NHRA, in which she’s won nine Top Fuel events. Hagan is a three-time Funny Car champion with 39 wins in that class. Both racers credited Schumacher with helping them take integral steps in their careers.
Stewart said he attended NHRA’s U.S. Nationals event in 2009, where he hung out with the Schumacher family and was “hooked,” but Pruett has allowed him to see more of the strategy and preparation firsthand.
“I want to be an integral part of it,” Stewart said. “And I don’t do things halfway. I go all in. But I’m smart enough to know that I don’t need to be a rookie owner and a rookie driver, so I made sure to get two of the best NHRA drivers in Leah and Matt. I’m going to lean on their experience so we can hit the ground running in 2022.”
Pruett, in a statement, described herself as an NHRA “lifer.”
“Don Schumacher gave me an incredible chance when we teamed up back in 2016,” Pruett said. “I’ve learned a lot from him and he’s made me a better driver. He helped me take a massive step in my career and this opportunity with TSR affords another big step.”
Stewart and Pruett are set to be married in Pomona, California, in November, when both the NHRA and NASCAR seasons will be wrapping up. The 2022 NHRA season opener is Feb. 17-20 at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, where Stewart’s team will make its debut.