Tony Stewart Set to Witness Season Opener at Daytona 500, Raises Concerns Over SHR’s Performance Uncertainty

Published 02/07/2024, 9:19 AM EST

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After the winless disaster that was the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series, Stewart-Haas Racing will be looking to start the Cup Series season strong. SHR has a completely new look this year, and co-owner Tony Stewart recently revealed that he will be at the Daytona International Speedway for the beginning of the season with the iconic Daytona 500. His presence at the event has been in doubt since he was supposed to test an NHRA car that weekend.

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The former Cup Series driver will be making a return to racing in the NHRA. Stewart will take his wife’s place in the competition as she will be taking a temporary leave from motorsports action. Leah Pruett revealed last year that she wanted to take time off to focus on starting a family with her husband. Whether she will make a full-time comeback to racing is unclear at the moment.

Tony Stewart reveals Daytona dinner plans but remains unsure about the team

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The three-time Cup Series champion has to test in the NHRA for 3 days before making his way to the Daytona International Speedway. In a recent episode of Unfiltered Racing Talk, Stewart revealed his plans for the 500 weekend. He said that he would fly into Daytona in the evening of Saturday before the race for dinner and then be at the track on race day.

“I’m carrying over to Daytona Saturday night for a dinner and then be at the Daytona 500 on Sunday,” he said. “Too early to tell honestly. I think those guys really won’t have an idea till after they run the qualifying race, where they feel like whether they have speed or not and whether they pull up well in the draft,” the racing veteran said on his team’s chances.

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This season, SHR has two new drivers, Josh Berry and Noah Gragson. Both will be looking for a good start to their Cup Series careers with the team. However, that is easier said than done. After last season, it’s tough to bet on the team. Even Tony Stewart did not seem very confident about the team’s chances.

Attending the Great American Race will not be Tony Stewart’s only responsibility during the Daytona 500 weekend. He will be testing NHRA cars at his wife’s place, who according to the former Cup Series driver is going into “mommy mode.”

Former Cup Series champion reveals wife’s “mommy mode” transition

Before she takes her hiatus from racing, Leah Pruett will participate in the PRO Superstar Shootout Invitational at Bradenton. Tony Stewart will take on the responsibility of Pruett’s “Homeslice” on Thursday before the Daytona 500, as he will commence a three-day testing session with the car.

Last year, rumors of the couple being pregnant were quashed on multiple occasions. However, this latest revelation by the 52-year-old might rekindle those again.

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“We’re here this week, we’ve got…Leah’s running her last race before she goes into mommy mode and racing at the pro event in Bradenton and then I test next week, 500 week, at Gainsville on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday,” the three-time Cup Series champion said.

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Fans will be very intrigued to see Tony Stewart make his comeback to full-time racing, even if it is not in NASCAR. How do you think the 52-year-old will perform in the NHRA? Let us know your thoughts.

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Written by:

Nilavro Ghosh

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Nilavro Ghosh is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports, where he is known for his creative yet easy-to-read writing style. Before taking up his role as a sports journalist at ES, Nilavro has written for some of the top publishing houses, like The Telegraph. While most journalists stop at covering live events and taking the news to the readers, Nilavro goes the extra mile to give fans a platform for them to express their thoughts through his 'race reaction' pieces.
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Edited by:

Riya Singhal

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