Stewart set for NHRA debut in Vegas

Simon Galloway/Motorsport Images

Stewart set for NHRA debut in Vegas


Stewart set for NHRA debut in Vegas


Tony Stewart will make his NHRA debut this weekend in Las Vegas when he gets behind the wheel of a Top Alcohol dragster for McPhillips Racing.

“I’m excited and nervous at the same time,” said Stewart. “It’s definitely going to be a big learning curve, and to do it at a national event right out of the gate adds to the challenge.

“But it’s something I’ve really been wanting to do and I’ve been working toward this moment. I’m not taking it lightly. It’s a serious business and I’m going to be as prepared as possible when I get to Las Vegas.”

Stewart fields a Top Fuel Dragster for his wife, Leah Pruett and a Funny Car for Matt Hagan. Tony Stewart Racing made its debut this season.

To better understand the driving side of drag racing and what Pruett and Hagan experience, Stewart has done testing in a dragster (Top Fuel and Top Dragster) over the last two years. He’s also gone to Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School.

“The team I’m driving for, McPhillips Racing, has been awesome to work with,” Stewart said. “They felt like I was ready to compete. With their confidence that’s given me the confidence and courage to try something new and take the leap.”

One of the most versatile racing drivers of his time, Stewart is a three-time NASCAR champion and an IndyCar champion. Throughout his driving career Stewart has won in stock cars, open wheel, on dirt, and in series like SRX (which he co-owners) and IROC.

Las Vegas will be the first time Stewart has run competitively in the NHRA.

“I’ve been a rookie in a lot of different cars over the course of my career,” Stewart said. “That part won’t be new, but the drag racing side is so different from anything I’ve driven in the past. It’s all about procedures and knowing the routine and doing it the same every time.

“In all the other forms of racing, you blow a corner and you fix it and do better the next lap. There is no next lap if you screw up in these cars. You have to do it the same every time for the team to be able to tune the car the right way, and you have to do your job. You have to cut good lights and stay in the groove.

“There are a lot of things people don’t think about just by watching on television. I’ve learned a lot from our teams this year. I’m sure it will be sensory overload, but you have to start somewhere.

“The McPhillips family is awesome and they’re great teachers, and when your wife is a professional driver and you have a teammate like Matt Hagan, they’re teaching me everything I need to know. I’m excited about finally getting the opportunity to do what they do.”

Action in Las Vegas begins Friday with two rounds of qualifying. The final round of qualifying is Saturday morning, and eliminations start later that afternoon.

“My expectations are just to gain experience and knowledge throughout the weekend,” Stewart said. “It will be nice to go from getting to drive the car to actually competing. Hopefully, we’ll have a good weekend and I’ll get to make a lot of passes.”