Tony Stewart – a three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and championship-winning team owner in two of NASCAR’s top-three series — will officially launch an operation in the NHRA, beginning in 2022, which will see entries fielded in both the Top Fuel and Funny Car classes.
Leah Pruett – a nine-time winner in the Top Fuel class and Stewart’s fiancee — and Matt Hagen – a three-time Funny Car champion and 36-time event winner — will be the inaugural drivers for Tony Stewart Racing’s program in the NHRA, as both will continue to compete in their respective classes.
“When I retired from full-time driving I said it wasn’t the end, but the beginning of a new chapter. This is proof of that,” Stewart said in a team release. “I appreciate all forms of racing, and I’ve always been intrigued about drag racing and NHRA, in particular.”
“Back in 2009, when Tony Schumacher and I were both representing the U.S. Army, I got to hang out with him and Don Schumacher at the U.S. Nationals. Tony ended up winning, and after taking it all in, I was hooked. But it wasn’t until I met Leah and started going to races regularly, where I saw the strategy and the preparation firsthand, that I truly understood it.”
Stewart has been a fixture at NHRA events since last season when he and Pruett began their relationship. They are now engaged, with the couple to be married after the season-finale in Pomona, California.
“Beginning with Don Schumacher, I’ve probably annoyed everyone in the paddock with all the questions I’ve asked, but the more I learned about drag racing, the less I wanted to just be a spectator,” Stewart continued. “I want to be an integral part of it. And I don’t do things halfway. I go all in. But I’m smart enough to know that I don’t need to be a rookie owner and a rookie driver, so I made sure to get two of the best NHRA drivers in Lead and Matt. I’m going to lean on their experience so we can hit the ground running in 2022.”
Since Tony Stewart Racing’s inaugural season in 2001, the organization has clinched 27 championships across various forms of racing, including 14 in USAC, nine in the World of Outlaws, and four in the All-Star Circuit of Champions TQ Midgets. The team will continue their sprint car program, which is headlined by 10-time champion Donny Schatz.
“I’m new to the NHRA, but I’m not new to motorsports,” Stewart said. “We have good infrastructure in place and we’re used to building things from the ground up. It makes success that much more rewarding.”
Pruett is currently in her 25th consecutive season competing in NHRA, which began in the series’ Jr. Drag Racing league as an eight-year-old. She won the 2010 NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Racing Series championship in the Nostalgia Funny Car class and has spent the last eight years advancing her way through Top Fuel.
“I’m an NHRA lifer and nitro racing is my passion,” Pruett said. “Don Schumacher gave me an incredible chance when we teamed up back in 2016. I’ve learned a lot from him and he’s made me a better driver. He helped me take a massive step in my career and this opportunity with TSR affords another big step. I’m forever grateful to all the individuals who I’ve been able to work alongside with at DSR. Don’s mentoring has prepared me for this new endeavor in more ways than just on the track.”
Hagen is a three-time and reigning Funny Car champion, winning championships in 2011, 2014, and 2020. The 38-year-old joined Don Schumacher Racing in 2009 and currently leads the point standings with only three races remaining.
“I got my start at 13 drag racing a four-wheeler. Went from that to sneaking cars off my dad’s lot and returning them with the transmissions nearly gone. I’ve loved going fast my whole life – from Pro Mod to finding where I thrive in the driver’s seat of a Funny Car,” Hagan said.
“Don Schumacher has been a huge chapter in my racing career. We’ve won a whole lot of trophies and multiple championships together over the years, and that’s because of the incredible team he’s placed around me and the opportunities that he’s given us to be successful.
“This next chapter with Tony Stewart is one I’m excited for. I’m ready to go racing. That’s what I’m here to do. I’m jumping into this new program with two feet and I’m confident in the package we’re bringing into the 2022 season with TSR. Let’s make some history.”
Tony Stewart Racing will make its NHRA debut in the 2022 season opener at Auto Club Raceway in Ponoma, California. Those interested in partnering with the organization should contact the team at TSRnitro@TonyStewart.com.