Tony Stewart to Run Full NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster Season

Mobil 1 has backed Tony Stewart for nearly 15 years
Mobil 1 is sponsoring Tony Stewart’s Top Alcohol Dragster 2023 campaign

He retired from NASCAR. Not from racing. No, since he hung up his stock car hat, suit and shoes, Tony Stewart has been turning left on dirt and pavement, turning right – whether intentionally or not – and has stretched his tentacles to the straight-line arena. 

Not enough to own cars in every major discipline but IMSA and INDYCAR, Stewart continues to cram about 30 hours worth of energy into every 24-hour period. He races, runs his businesses, looks to new arenas for his activities. And now, having almost tasted the sweetness of victory in NHRA’s Lucas Oil Racing Series’ Top Alcohol Dragster (TAD) competition with McPhillips Racing last October during the NHRA Nevada Nationals, Stewart wants more. A lot more!

This year the three-time NASCAR champ, NASCAR Hall of Fame member, INDYCAR champ, SRX champ, three-time USAC National Midget champ – he has 13 titles overall – will attempt to win the TAD crown by engaging in a full season of dragster competition. Long-time partner Mobil 1 is coming along for the ride, which will again see Stewart as part of the McPhillips team.

 

Stewart has been successful in every racing class he’s attempted – Anne Proffit photo

“I am super excited about the season,” Stewart said, even as he preps his two Camping World Drag Racing Series competitors for their respective 21-event seasons. “It’s been a long winter, and I think what’s made it feel even longer is the fact that we’ve been working on putting this package together with the McPhillips family, to expand on what we did at Las Vegas last year and get back in the seat.”

After coming within two inches – two inches – of winning his first competitive drag race, heck his first straight-line race ever, Stewart is hooked. Line and sinker. “I want to keep learning about the sport and have the opportunity to go compete more this year with a team I really enjoy,” he said. “Everyone on the crew is a fun group of guys to race with. It’s nerve-wracking to try and do something different, but when you have a team like what the McPhillips Racing team has, it makes everything a lot easier.”

To earn yet another championship, Tony Stewart will follow the Top Alcohol Dragster category dictates, one in which he’s eligible to earn points at his first 10 national events. His national championship points total will consist of his six best national finishes from eligible points-earning events in this NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.

It’s tough for Tony Stewart to sit still and watch, even when it’s his team on the line. Seeing wife Leah Pruett compete in her Top Fuel dragster and three-time Funny Car titleholder Matt Hagan run his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat has likely been fingernails on a chalk board for this racer’s racer. 

Did Stewart surprise himself with a Top Alcohol Dragster finals appearance last October? Likely not! – Anne Proffit photo

While he’s not raising his expectations for a title this year – yeah, right – Stewart thinks, “As long as I keep learning more and more as I go, by trying to be more consistent with driving the car, keep it in the groove, trying to stay consistent on reaction times and improve reaction times, those are all goals for me. I want to keep learning and get better every weekend and every race we go to.”

Having Mobil 1 back his play in this new arena is a big plus for the driver who won his first NASCAR championship as a team owner with Mobil 1 backing, as well as his third and final driving title in a stock car. Mobil 1 was also with Stewart when he drove a Formula One car at Watkins Glen International, as well as his first time in a Top Fuel dragster. “When Tony said this is what he wanted to do next, we weren’t about to miss supporting him as he gets better acquainted with the water box this year,” said Rob Shearer, ExxonMobil director of global lubricants marketing services and sponsorships. 

“And each time one of our drivers takes the next step, so do our engineers. Tony will be relying on our Mobil 1 Racing Nitro full synthetic racing oil all season long,” Shearer confirmed. “It’s a technology that represents the next generation of Mobil 1 full synthetic motor oils that you can find on the shelf, but that journey typically begins, right here on the track.” Mobil 1 first entered the NHRA arena by backing J.R. Todd’s Toyota GR Supra in Funny Car last year.

Stewart’s schedule includes the season-starting NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway in Florida, the NHRA Winternationals on the Pomona, CA, NHRA’s Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as well as the complementary Four-Wide Nationals at Charlotte (N.C.) Dragway. He’ll race the NHRA Nationals at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park near Norwalk, Ohio, NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway in Minnesota, the vaunted Ul.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park, NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, PA, NHRA Carolina Nationals at Charlotte Dragway, as part of Texas Motorplex’ Stampede of Speed during the NHRA FallNationals, the NHRA Nevada Nationals, where he made his debut last year and, finally, the NHRA Finals at Pomona.

Before he starts the trek to a TAD title, Stewart has chosen to compete in select divisional events, starting with the Division 2 “Baby Gators”, which will be held the week before the Gatornationals, March 1-5. “Getting prepared for this season over the winter has been about trying to understand what the schedule is going to look like. I’m just trying to prepare for every racetrack we go to – the shutdown areas and which way to turn off the racetrack,” Stewart mused. “Just simple things and small details that the people that have been in this sport for years already know. That’s what this sport is all about: small details. Preparing for the season is thinking about all the small details it takes to be successful.”

Stewart warms up his McPhillips Racing Top Alcohol Dragster – NHRA photo

He’ll be competing against the talented Madison Payne, who beat him in Las Vegas last fall. “There was no disgrace in finishing second to her because she is a great race car driver. It’s been like being a little kid all over again,” Stewart concluded. “When I was racing go-karts, I couldn’t wait for the winter to be over so I could go racing. That’s where I’m at all over again. I”m going to have great teammates in Matt Cummings and Jasmine Salinas. They are two people that have won a lot of races and championships. I’m excited and honored to be a part of the NHRA!”

About Anne Proffit 1268 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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