Tony Stewart will expand his motorsports team ownership into the NHRA beginning in 2022.
Tony Stewart Racing will field two full-time entries with one Top Fuel dragster and one Funny Car team. Stewart’s fiancee and nine-time event winner Leah Pruett continue in the Top Fuel ranks, and Matt Hagan will compete for another championship in Funny Car.
“When I retired from full-time driving, I said it wasn’t the end, but the beginning of a new chapter. This is proof of that,” Stewart said. “I appreciate all forms of racing, and I’ve always been intrigued about drag racing and NHRA, in particular. Back in 2009, when Tony Schumacher and I were both representing the U.S. Army, I got to hang out with him and Don Schumacher at the U.S. Nationals. Tony ended up winning, and after taking it all in, I was hooked. But it wasn’t until I met Leah and started going to races regularly, where I saw the strategy and the preparation firsthand, that I truly understood it.”
Tony Stewart Racing was formed in 2000 and has earned 27 owner championships between USAC, World of Outlaws, and the All Star Circuit of Champions TQ Midgets. The NHRA program and sprint car operations will operate out of the existing facility in Brownsburg, Indiana.
Stewart’s ownership resume also includes entries in the NASCAR Xfinity and Cup Series and the half-mile Eldora Speedway.
Pruett and Hagan both currently compete for Don Schumacher Racing.
“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. “I want to be an integral part of it. 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.
“I’m new to NHRA, but I’m not new to motorsports. We have good infrastructure in place, and we’re used to building things from the ground up. It makes success that much more rewarding.”
In her 25th consecutive season competing in the NHRA, Pruett’s career began in the Jr. Drag Racing League, and she won the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Racing Series championship (2010) in the Nostalgia Funny Car class. Pruett was the first person to break the 250mph mark in a Nostalgia Funny Car.
Pruett has competed in the Top Fuel class for the last eight years and has made five playoff appearances. She also competes in the Factory Stock Showdown class, where she won the 2018 title.
“I’m an NHRA lifer, and nitro racing is my passion,” said Pruett, whose most recent win came in August at Pomona. “Don Schumacher gave me an incredible chance when we teamed up back in 2016. 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. I’m forever grateful to all the individuals who I’ve been able to work alongside with at DSR. Don’s mentoring has prepared me for this new endeavor in more ways than just on the track.”
Hagan is a three-time champion with 39 event wins. A member of Schumacher’s team since 2009, Hagan leads the Funny Car point standings with three races left in the Countdown to the Championship.
“Don Schumacher has been a huge chapter in my racing career,” Hagan said. “We’ve won a whole lot of trophies and multiple championships together over the years, and that’s because of the incredible team he’s placed around me and the opportunities that he’s given us to be successful.
“This next chapter with Tony Stewart is one I’m excited for. I’m ready to go racing. That’s what I’m here to do. I’m jumping into this new program with two feet, and I’m confident in the package we’re bringing into the 2022 season with TSR. Let’s make some history.”
The team’s manufacturer and technical alliance associate, along with corporate partners, will be announced at a later date.