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Tony Stewart Believes All-Star Sale & SRX’s Absence Could Be Key to Top Fuel Success & NASCAR Redemption

Published 03/08/2024, 8:45 AM EST

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This weekend, the NHRA is firing up its first drag-racing season under the Mission Foods title in Gainesville. The spotlight’s on Tony Stewart as he gears up for his Top Fuel debut. While his wife Leah Pruett, last year’s close second to Doug Kalitta, takes a step back to focus on starting their family. Stewart stepping into the drag-racing world is the talk of the town. Having clinched titles in NASCAR, IndyCar, and USAC, Stewart is diving into his fourth motorsport, tackling the NHRA’s Top Fuel division with an 11,000-horsepower Dodge dragster at Gainesville Raceway.

Yet, despite his impressive track record, Stewart’s feeling the jitters about his Top Fuel debut. However, he reckons that with fewer things juggling his attention now, he might find it easier to zero in on mastering the dragster. It’s a fresh challenge for the Indiana native, but one he’s gearing up to tackle head-on.

Tony Stewart believes All-Star Sale & SRX’s absence are helpful for his race in NHRA

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Tony Stewart’s got this knack for driving anything on wheels and is always up for new challenges. But that doesn’t mean he’s without his moments of doubt. In a recent chat with The Athletic, he laid it out there, saying he’s stepping into some pretty big shoes left by his wife and isn’t feeling 100% ready.

When probed on how geared up he felt for this new gig, Stewart was upfront: “Not as much as I would like. I’m probably the one out of the whole group that has the least amount of confidence about this. You’re always nervous about something that’s new to you, but this is something new that is 330 miles an hour. So I’d be foolish if I wasn’t a little bit nervous about it.”

However, the pause on the SRX Series this year and the offloading of the All-Star racing series might have made things easier for Stewart. This slimmed-down schedule means he’s got more bandwidth to dial into drag racing. When asked if having fewer irons in the fire made a difference in his stress levels and focus, Stewart didn’t hesitate: “Yeah, it does.”

He continued, “We had looked at the SRX schedule and I’d already told the upper management with SRX that I wasn’t going to be able to make the first three events because of my commitment with the drag racing side. So we’d already worked through the details to take some of that stress away. But yeah, you’re spot-on. I didn’t have to be there for all the All-Star races anyway. So to your point, it’s two less things on the plate for this year and definitely gives us a little bit more time to focus on what we have to do. […] We’re not having to divide our time as much amongst more entities.”

Tony Stewart has been behind the wheel of a Top Fuel car for 20 races over the last three years. He’s got more to say about the wild speeds these machines can hit. 

SHR owner is bothered about the short distance in the series and the faster speed

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Tony Stewart’s been racing in Top Alcohol Dragsters throughout 2023, prepping for this weekend’s big race. But what’s really got him on edge is the switch to a shorter track—1,000 feet compared to the usual quarter-mile—and the adrenaline rush of going 50mph faster.

He found a unique way to describe the sheer force of blasting off at 330 mph. “The most acceleration you’ve ever had in your life in any type of car is like at a Japanese buffet where they give you the little shrimp appetizer when you sit down. That’s what everything else you’ve done in your career is like versus what I’m getting ready to do.”

Luckily, Stewart’s not flying solo in this endeavor. He’s got teammate Matt Hagan, aiming for his third straight Gatornationals Funny Car win in the nitro-fueled TSR Direct Connection Dodge//SRT Hellcat, which eases some of the pressure. Plus, his wife, Leah Pruett, who placed third in the 2023 NHRA Top Fuel standings, is on hand as both a strategist and driving coach for the TSR team.

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Read More: Unprepared Tony Stewart Makes “Least Amount of Confidence” Confession, Gets Poetic About NHRA Top Fuel Debut

 

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Written by:

Neha Dwivedi

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Neha Dwivedi is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. As a journalist, she religiously believes in the power of research, which allows her readers to dive deep into her stories and experience the detailed nuances of the sport like never before. Being proficient with Core Sport and Live Event Coverage, she has written multiple copies on the top entities of Stock Car Racing, like Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, and Tony Stewart.
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Edited by:

Shreya Singh