Tony Stewart to Compete in NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster at Las Vegas this Weekend

Tony Stewart will drive McPhillips Racing's Top Alcohol Dragster


Tony Stewart will drive McPhillips Racing’s Top Alcohol Dragster

Racing legend and team owner Tony Stewart will debut his drag chops during this weekend’s NHRA Nevada Nationals.

Tony Stewart’s mentor has always been A.J. Foyt Jr., the Texan who could and would drive most any race car anywhere, anytime. It should come as no surprise, then, that “Smoke” will make his competitive debut at the wheel of an NHRA Top Alcohol dragster the upcoming NHRA Nevada Nationals this weekend on The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It’s Halloween weekend but this is no trick; rather, it’s a treat for Stewart and the legion of fans both the Camping World Drag Racing Series and Lucas Oil Sportsman Series attracts.  

Following a pair of multi-day Frank Hawley Drag Racing School sessions and a handful of tests over the past two years in both a Top Alcohol and Top Fuel dragster, Smoke feels he’s ready for this new challenge to his competitive juices. 

While widely known for his three championships in NASCAR’s Cup Series, Stewart also has driving championships in INDYCAR and USAC, together with hundreds of wins on oval tracks, dirt tracks and road courses. “I’m excited and nervous at the same time,” he said. “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 has been successful in every motorsports endeavor he’s contested – photo courtesy TSR Nitro

Stewart’s ride for this weekend is at the wheel of McPhillips Racing’s dragster, which will wear the familiar support of longtime partner Mobil 1, a company that rode with him when he earned his third and final NASCAR Cup Series championship 2011; they were both sponsor and technical partner then. This 12-year relationship continues in NHRA, NASCAR and the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series. 

“McPhillips Racing has been awesome to work with,” Stewart explained. “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. The McPhillips family is awesome and they’re great teachers. When your wife is a professional driver“ – Tony Stewart Racing Top Fuel pilot Leah Pruett – “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,” he said.

Stewart entered his Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) into Camping World nitro-fueled competition at the start of this year’s 22-race campaign, with Pruett, a 10-time Top Fuel winner and three-time Funny Car champion Hagan. Both qualified for the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs that culminate at Pomona the second weekend of November, following this weekend’s penultimate contest in Sin City. “I’ve been a rookie in a lot of different cars over the course of my career. 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,” Stewart confirmed.

Through his experiences over the past two NHRA seasons, Stewart has learned that there are not always second chances in drag racing. “In all the other forms of racing,” he reflected, “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.” While he admits he’s learned a lot from being at the track these past two years and from his TSR Nitro team this year, “I’m sure it will be sensory overload, but you have to start somewhere.”

Stewart has been a mainstay in NHRA competition since joining the tour last year

Sensory overload is no stranger to Stewart, as the 51-year-old superstar – who owns 13 driving championships – has competed at the top levels of nearly every major motor sport, including NASCAR, INDYCAR, IMSA, USAC, Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) and an array of sprint car series, including The World of Outlaws and All Star Circuit of Champions. He’s even, thanks to his Mobil 1 relationship, driven a Formula One car, sampling Lewis Hamilton’s 2008 championship-winning McLaren in June of 2011 at Watkins Glen International, in a promotional event for the lubricant manufacturer.

“Tony Stewart is one of the most talented and versatile drivers in motorsports history,” noted Jei Gore, ExxonMobil global motorsports and sponsorships manager. “His love of racing is unwavering, and we’re proud to have him represent the Mobil 1 brand as he takes on this new challenge in the NHRA. Both driver and machine face extreme conditions on the drag strip, and demanding environments are where Tony and Mobil 1 technology thrive. This should be an outstanding combination,” he said, “just as it has been so many times before.”

Tony Stewart gets his initial “baptism” in NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Top Alcohol dragster competition on Friday, October 28; his first qualifying session is set for 11:15PT, with the second on tap at 5:45PM. He’ll have a third qualifying session on Saturday morning at 10:30, while the first round of TAD eliminations is set for 2:30PM. All the action is streamed live on NHRA.TV.

About Anne Proffit 1264 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

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