The racing resume of Tony Stewart is an all-encompassing one from both the driver's seat and from a position of management, as he has managed to pervade nearly all corners of motorsports in his legendary career. Now, Stewart is adding yet another section to his racing resume as the owner of a brand new NHRA team.
On Thursday, Tony Stewart announced that he will join the NHRA as a car owner in 2022, fielding two full-time entries across two separate divisions under the Tony Stewart Racing banner. Stewart's team will field a Top Fuel car for Leah Pruett and a Funny Car team for three-time and defending Funny Car champion Matt Hagan. Both drivers have been lured away from Don Schumacher Racing, one of the NHRA's powerhouse teams.
Speaking to the media, Stewart explained that his interest in fielding an NHRA team spawned from his relationship with Pruett, whom he is engaged to and will marry at the end of the 2021 season. Stewart has been a frequent spectator of Pruett's races, and explained that he wanted to be more than a "trophy wife" to his bride-to-be.
"I appreciate all forms of racing and I've always been intrigued about drag racing and NHRA, in particular," Stewart said in a report by Jim Utter of Motorsport.com. "Back in 2009 when (NHRA champion) 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."
Stewart's entry into the NHRA means that his racing empire continues to grow. After rising to prominence in IndyCar competition in the 1990s, Stewart has since become a NASCAR Hall of Famer, a dirt racing icon, and the owner of race teams and raceways alike. According to Jeff Gluck of The Athletic, Stewart currently does not have plans to compete in NHRA as a driver, but has made several test runs in Pruett's car.
Stewart began dating Pruett, who has nine career NHRA wins, last year. The couple announced their engagement in March.