Tony Stewart Commends Flexible NHRA for Major Funny Car Change to Ensure Driver Safety

Published 02/07/2024, 3:54 PM EST

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At the start of any race, it is mandatory to complete technical checks to ensure a flawless racing experience. When the officials do a good job, racers can focus on the track without worrying about safety. Tony Stewart thought along similar lines about the NHRA. The racing series introduced all the relevant tweaks and changes while assigning top priority to driver safety.

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The National Hot Rod Association or NHRA is gearing up for the 2024 season. The 39th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals is right around the corner, set to be held on the April 5-7 weekend. Tony Stewart is all set to ace it in his second year at the NHRA, after taking over his wife’s car. He has high hopes for NHRA, as he appreciated the meticulous approach of the series officials.

Tony Stewart lauds NHRA for putting safety on top

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Behind the advancement of any motorsport, there are some extremely good mechanicals. With their help, NHRA officials took their Funny Car races up a notch, introducing much-needed safety changes. Tony Stewart broke it down in an interview. 

He said, “So NHRA did a really good job of mandating a angle in the headers. Guys were really figuring it out if they laid the headers back. The angle of the pipes, they got more thrust. And it made for a better ET in mile an hour. But NHRA was savvy enough to get involved once guys were hitting more cones and hitting more walls. Figured out the guys couldn’t drive them. So put an angle rule in it to give it downforce with the pipes and the thrust, instead of just forward thrust. And that made the cars a lot more drivable.”

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Stewart also pointed out why there was a need for these technical advantages. For instance, he said that the cars gain stability with more movement. “The further around it gets, the lighter the front end gets. That’s why you’ll see funny car guys get in the wall, or cross to the center line and hit a cone, just the front end gets light.”

The NHRA will commence the 2024 season at the newly rebranded Firebird Motorsports Park in Chandler. Stewart spent a whole day in Tampa, Florida, on a media tour. He was promoting the state’s biggest Drag Race, the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, on March 7-10. Stewart is going to debut as a Top Fuel driver at the NHRA season opener at Gainesville next month.

Tony Stewart Bashes NASCAR’s “Scr*wed Up” Rule Change Restricting Wind Tunnel Time

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Tony Stewart takes the reins from his wife, Leah Pruett

Tony Stewart’s entry into the NHRA racing series was possible due to his significant other. His wife, Leah Pruett, is a top-tier NHRA driver. She had finished third in the Top Fuel standings in 2023. Now Stewart will fill in her shoes by competing as a full-time Top Fuel driver in 2024.

Stewart had his plan laid out before him. “My goal is to not suck, my goal is not get fired by my wife and not kill myself driving this thing”. Top fuel cars can produce 8,000 to 11,000 horsepower. Nitromethane-powered cars can achieve 330 mph in a matter of seconds. Indeed, we do see Stewart’s concern about the dangers.

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The 52-year-old NASCAR Hall of Famer is close to grabbing a rare milestone. If he wins at the NHRA Top Fuel race, he will become the only driver to win championships in all three series: NASCAR, IndyCar, and NHRA Top Fuel. Can he do it?

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Written by:

Sumedha Mukherjee

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Sumedha Mukherjee is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports who is known for her in-depth track analysis as well as her lifestyle coverage of Cup drivers like Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick. Inspired by the Kiwi's journey so far, Sumedha has also written pieces on Shane Van Gisbergen, predicting how the Supercars Champion would do in the new and unfamiliar American setting. Pairing her research skills with her vast experience as a writer, Sumedha creates stories her readers can easily get lost in.
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Edited by:

Ranvijay Singh

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