NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart will return to full-time competition this season – as an NHRA drag racer.
Stewart, a three-time NASCAR champion, will run the premier alcohol dragster for McPhillips Racing throughout the 2023 NHRA season. Stewart, who turns 52 in May, will be sponsored by longtime partner Mobil 1.
Stewart made his NHRA debut in a Top Alcohol dragster last October at the Nevada Nationals, where he made the finals and finished second by .0002 seconds. Stewart’s run of 5.258 seconds, 271.57 mph in the final was just one inch short of victory.
Stewart, who owns a sprint car team and co-owns Stewart-Haas Racing in NASCAR, last year founded an NHRA team that fields a Top Fuel dragster for his wife, Leah Pruett, and a Funny Car for Matt Hagan.
“We’ve been working to put this package together with the McPhillips family to expand on what we did in Las Vegas last year and go back to the venue,” Stewart said. “I want to continue to learn about the sport and have the opportunity to compete more this year with a team that I really enjoy.
“It’s nerve-wracking trying to do something different, but when you have a team like the McPhillips Racing team, it makes everything a lot easier.”
Stewart has won titles in NASCAR, IndyCar and USAC, and will compete for the NHRA National Championship this year. Top alcohol drivers are eligible to earn points in their first 10 national events. Their top six national scores from their qualifying points will make up their championship points total.
Stewart isn’t sure the title is within reach.
“It’s hard to sit back and know what our expectations should be for this year,” Stewart said. “I think as long as I’m learning more and more trying to be more consistent in driving the car, keeping it consistent, trying to stay consistent in my reaction time and improve my reaction time, those are all goals for me. I want to keep learning and getting better every weekend and every race we go to.”
Stewart’s first race as a full-time drag racer will be the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., next month. In addition to the NHRA national events, Stewart will compete in select Divisional Series races, starting with the Baby Gators at Gainesville Raceway March 1-5.
“It was like being a little kid again,” Stewart said. “When I was racing go-karts, I couldn’t wait for winter to go to the races. Here I am all over again.”
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