CONCORD, N.C. – Tony Stewart’s massive racing portfolio is getting a little bigger.
Stewart announced Thursday that Tony Stewart Racing will launch an NHRA Camping World Drag Series program next season. The team will field entries in the Top Fuel and Funny Car divisions for Stewart’s fiancée, Leah Pruett, and Matt Hagan, respectively.
“I guess this started back in 2009 when I had the honor to meet Don Schumacher and Tony Schumacher because of a mutual partner that we had,” Stewart said. “I got invited to go to the U.S. Nationals and Tony ended up winning the nationals that year. That kind of got the bug set a little bit.”
Stewart went on to explain the idea to start his own drag racing program grew more after getting to spend time with Pruett at NHRA events the last two seasons. He’s also gotten to make 10 passes in a Top Fuel dragster to further plant the seed.
“To be behind the scenes with Leah, I got to learn a lot,” Stewart said. “That definitely set the hook and over the last year and a half I’ve learned a lot about the sport, I’ve learned a lot about the economics of the sport. It definitely set the hook with me and created a lot more interest.”
The addition of an NHRA program adds to the already massive racing portfolio owned by Stewart. He’s co-owner of the Stewart-Haas Racing NASCAR program with Gene Haas, owns a World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series team, owns Ohio’s Eldora Speedway, is the owner of the All Star Circuit of Champions sprint car tour and is a partner in the Camping World SRX Series that launched this year.
“It’s not going to take away from anything that I’m doing with our other forms of motorsports,” Stewart said of the NHRA program. “As you guys know with having Eldora Speedway and the All Star Circuit of Champions, the four Cup teams and the Xfinity team, we’re used to juggling a lot of balls and having a lot of balls in the air.
“Adding this to the portfolio is not anything that’s going to take away from what currently have. If anything it’s going to enhance it with a lot of our partners.”
Pruett joins Tony Stewart Racing after spending the better part of six seasons with Don Schumacher Racing. She’s earned nine Top Fuel victories during her career as well as three Pro Mod triumphs.
“At some point in your life you have the opportunity to build and that’s exactly what this is, an opportunity for us, here together, to build TSR into an NHRA championship caliber team,” Pruett said. “It’s just astonishing to be able to move forward with my future husband and a championship caliber teammate and continue with my teammate Matt Hagan.”
Hagan departs Don Schumacher Racing after an incredible run that has seen him win three Funny Car championships and 39 Funny Car triumphs since joining DSR in 2009. He currently leads the Funny Car standings by 30 points ahead of his DSR teammate Ron Capps.
“Tony, he is the man. Super excited to be partnered with him as far as driving a race car for him,” Hagan said. “That takes so much stress off of you when you can focus on driving the race car. Tony, with his relationships and sponsorships and everything else that he is, I have no doubt that this is going to be a big splash in NHRA.”
Stewart confirmed that while he has done some testing in a Top Fuel dragster, he has no plans to strap in and compete in an NHRA event anytime soon.
“I’ve made 10 runs in Leah’s car and trust me, that’s not even near enough to get close to being ready to compete at this level that these two are at,” Stewart said of Pruett and Hagan. “It’s been an honor and it’s been a lot of fun to do that. I’m sure now that I get to pay the bills on the car next year I can probably have the ability to test a little more if I want.
“I do anticipate practicing more, but it’s a little early to make that big step.”
Additional details about the team, including sponsors, a manufacturer and a technical alliance, will be announced at a later date.