Motivated by an unrivaled degree of passion and the natural talent to go with it, stock car and open wheel racing star Tony Stewart is throwback to a bygone era — to legends like Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt, who competed in a wide variety of racing disciplines over their careers with great success. Stewart, like the intrepid stars of the generation that preceded him, has been from grass-roots dirt track racing to the bright lights and red carpets of NASCAR’s Cup Series and back, blazing a trail of success all along the way. He made history by winning USAC’s championship triple crown before earning an IndyCar Series title and then cementing his legacy with three Cup Series championships before retiring and assuming a new role as a promoter, team owner, and occasional dirt-track competitor.
But the Columbus, Indiana native, despite all that he’s driven and accomplished in his 49 years, had never been down a dragstrip. But a romantic relationship with NHRA Top Fuel star and lifelong drag racer Leah Pruett changed all that.
In the latter of half of the season, Stewart and Pruett visited Florida’s Bradenton Motorsports Park for Stewart to try his hand at a whole new genre of racing competition. Stewart partnered with world-class drag racing instructor and highly-successful former racer Frank Hawley to facilitate the session, in which Stewart piloted both a Super Comp-style dragster and, later, a blown-alcohol Top Dragster.
Stewart has reportedly expressed an interest in experiencing a Top Fuel dragster, but has no intentions at this time of his foray into drag racing moving beyond that. And for a man who operates two major race teams, three race tracks, a dirt-track racing series, and himself competes at more than 30 sprint-car events a season, a legitimate drag racing effort would seem unlikely.