Tony Stewart – a three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and a championship-winning team owner in NASCAR – has really diversified his portfolio over the last couple of years, both as a businessman and a race car driver.
That theme will continue for Stewart at the end of the month, as the Indiana-native embarks on his NHRA Debut behind the wheel of a Top Alcohol dragster on October 28 to 30, driving for McPhillips Racing at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Over the last two years, Stewart has completed two multi-day sessions at Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School, as well as multiple testing sessions in both a Top Alcohol dragster and a Top Fuel entry. Now, the 51-year-old is ready for the real thing.
“I’m excited and nervous at the same time,” Stewart said. “It’s definitely going to be a big learning curve, and to do it at a national event right out of the gate adds to the challenge. But it’s something I’ve really been wanting to do and I’ve been working toward this moment. I’m not taking it lightly. It’s a serious business and I’m going to be as prepared as possible when I get to Las Vegas.”
Stewart will make his debut in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series for McPhillips Racing.
“The team I’m driving for, McPhillips Racing, has been awesome to work with,” Stewart said. “They felt like I was ready to compete. With their confidence, that’s given me the confidence and courage to try something new and take the leap.”
Despite the newness of the entire project, Stewart will have sponsorship backing from a long-time partner of his, in the form of Mobil1, who sponsors Stewart-Haas Racing’s NASCAR Cup Series program.
“Throughout his storied career, Tony has been known for his commitment and dedication to his craft, which is why he’s long been a perfect fit as a Mobil 1 partner,” said Rob Shearer, ExxonMobil Director Global Lubricants Marketing Services and Sponsorships. “His desire to be exceptional has always aligned with our goal to do the same. His laser focus and intense competitive spirit that we all know so well will be on display once again, but this time on a quarter-mile dragstrip. We’re looking forward to cheering him on in his NHRA debut.”
The partnership between Stewart and Mobil1 dates back to 2011, when he became a three-time champion at NASCAR’s top-level, with the company as a technical partner and a primary sponsor. The relationship has been going strong ever since, lasting 12 years.
“Mobil 1 is more than just a sponsor – they’re a partner that provides us with a competitive advantage to get the most out of our cars,” Stewart said. “I love driving and it’s the most fun when our cars are running at their best – and Mobil 1 makes that possible. Their technology gives me a strong sense of security when I’m behind the wheel and a tremendous amount of pride whenever we put a racecar on the track.”
Despite the fact he’ll make his debut later his month, Stewart is quite a familiar name in the NHRA paddock, as the owner of Tony Stewart Racing, which fields entries across different series for Leah Pruett (Top Fuel) and Matt Hagen (Funny Car).
“I’ve been a rookie in a lot of different cars over the course of my career. That part won’t be new, but the drag racing side is so different from anything I’ve driven in the past. It’s all about procedures and knowing the routine and doing it the same every time,” Stewart said. “In all the other forms of racing, you blow a corner and you fix it and do better the next lap. There is no next lap if you screw up in these cars. You have to do it the same every time for the team to be able to tune the car the right way, and you have to do your job. You have to cut good lights and stay in the groove.”
Despite the challenge, Stewart – a competitor in NASCAR, IndyCar, USAC, World of Outlaws, and SRX over the years – is ready and willing to learn from this chance of a lifetime.
“There are a lot of things people don’t think about just by watching on television. I’ve learned a lot from our teams this year. I’m sure it will be sensory overload, but you have to start somewhere,” continued Stewart. “The McPhillips family is awesome and they’re great teachers, and when your wife is a professional driver and you have a teammate like Matt Hagan, they’re teaching me everything I need to know. I’m excited about finally getting the opportunity to do what they do.”
Despite having won 13 championships over the course of his professional career, Stewart is taking a modest approach to his debut in the NHRA.
“My expectations are just to gain experience and knowledge throughout the weekend,” Stewart said. “It will be nice to go from getting to drive the car to actually competing. Hopefully, we’ll have a good weekend and I’ll get to make a lot of passes.”
NHRA Top Alcohol Weekend Schedule:
- Q1: Friday, October 28th at 2:15pm ET
- Q2: Friday, October 28th at 8:45pm ET
- Q3: Saturday, October 29th at 1:30pm ET
- Round 1: Saturday, October 29th at 5:30pm ET
- Round 2: Saturday, October 29th at 8:45pm ET
- Semifinals: Sunday, October 30th at 4:00pm ET
- Finals: Sunday, October 30th at 6:50pm ET