Hall of Famer Tony Stewart Steps Up to Top Fuel

Significant changes are in the works at Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) Nitro, with Tony Stewart taking over the driving chores of the team’s Top Fuel dragster for the 2024 season. After finishing 3rd in the 2023 NHRA Top Fuel points, current driver and wife of Stewart, Leah Pruett, is vacating the seat of her Direct Connection, Dodge SRT, and Dodge Power Brokers dragster to start a family.

Above: Leah Pruett is a two-time NHRA champion. She won the 2010 NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series in a Funny Car and the 2018 Factory Stock Showdown Series. Pruett has won 11 Top Fuel events and finished 3rd in the 2023 NHRA Top Fuel points. Rather than interviewing for a driver to fill Pruett’s vacated driver’s seat, she and crew chief Neal Strausbaugh selected Stewart as the replacement driver, believing he had the talent to handle the nitro-burning dragster. (Photo from www.leahpruett.com)

Stewart, a multi-time champion in NASCAR (2002, 2005, 2011), Indy Car Series (1997), USAC Triple Crown (1995), USAC National Midget Series (1994), IROC Series (2006), and SRX Series (2021), finished 2nd in the 2023 NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster eliminator. Stewart has excelled in all endeavors he has attempted, and his inductions into multiple racing Halls of Fame testify to his accomplishments.

Above: Before the 2022 season, Tony Stewart Racing acquired the Dodge team cars from Don Schumacher. Along with Pruett’s Top Fuel Dragster, Stewart picked up Matt Hagan’s Charger Hellcat Funny Car. (Photo from www.leahpruett.com)

Stewart acquired his nitro team, which includes Pruett’s Top Fueler and Matt Hagan’s Funny Car, from Don Schumacher before the 2022 season. TSR earned its first championship in its second year, when Hagan earned his fourth NHRA Funny Car Championship (2011, 2014, 2020, 2023). Hagan, like Pruett, has significant sponsorship from Direct Connection, Dodge SRT, and Dodge Power Brokers, and his full-body car resembles a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.

Also, under the TSR umbrella is a dirt track team that has earned 27 championships in USAC (14), World of Outlaws (WoO) (9), and All-Star Circuit of Champions TQ Midget Series (4). Additionally, TSR has 12 Knoxville Nationals championships in the WoO. TSR’s WoO win total has exceeded 320 wins, and with his teams running again in 2024, expect the wins to accumulate.

Above: The TSR teams propelled Matt Hagan’s funny car (left) to his fourth NHRA Funny Car Championship and Pruett to a top-five finish. The championship was the first for TSR. The hope is TSR will retain all the talented employees to help Hagan earn another championship and elevate Stewart to his first. (Photo from www.leahpruett.com) 

In July 2008, Stewart became an owner/driver when he partnered with Gene Haas to form Stewart-Haas Racing. Stewart won one of his three NASCAR Championships (2011) with the team. In 2016, Stewart retired from driving to oversee the team.

Lastly, Stewart owns the legendary half-mile Eldora Speedway, where he frequently raced as a USAC driver. Yearly, Eldora Speedway hosts several of the most significant events on dirt. Stewart is also part-owner of two additional racetracks – Paducah International Raceway (Kentucky) and Macon Speedway (Illinois).

Above: Stewart is busy with all his businesses, and now, he will add Top Fuel pilot and hopefully father to the list. (Photo from www.leahpruett.com)

In addition, in January 2015, Stewart became a series owner when he purchased the All-Star Circuit of Champions (ASCoC). The ASCoC is one of the oldest traveling 410-winged sprint car organizations in the United States.

As of the date of this editorial, the TSR team members that propelled Hagan to a championship and Pruett to a 3rd place finish are expected to return for the 2024 season. So, look for Tony Stewart to compete for another Rookie of the Year honor and a Top Fuel Championship. Do not bet against him; he has won going left on dirt and pavement, on road courses, and off-roading events, so it should not be surprising when he wins going straight down the strip.

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Chris Holley

Technical Contributor Chris has been a college professor for 25 years; at Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, PA. for the last 20 years. Chris instructs automotive classes in HVAC, electrical/electronics, and high-performance, including using a chassis dyno, flow benches, and various machining equipment. Recently, he added a vintage vehicle upholstery class to his teaching assignments. Chris owns a '67 Dart, a '75 Dart, a '06 Charger, and a '12 Cummins turbo diesel Ram, and he is a multi-time track champion (drag racing) with his '69 340 Dart, which he has owned for 34 years.

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