Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Tony Stewart is set to make his NHRA drag racing debut this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion will compete for McPhillips Racing in a Top Alcohol dragster, which is the equivalent of NASCAR’s second-tier Xfinity Series.
“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.”
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The debut has come about after two multi-day sessions at Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School and a couple of tests over the last two years in both a Top Alcohol dragster and a Top Fuel dragster.
While the NASCAR Hall of Famer runs his own NHRA team, he will compete for McPhillips Racing in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, scheduled from October 28-30 at ‘The Strip’ in Vegas.
“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.”
The series will add to the illustrious list of the racing events that Stewart has already tried, which includes NASCAR, IndyCar, IMSA, USAC and an array of sprint car series, including the World of Outlaws and All-Star Circuit of Champions. Additionally, he also had his hands on a Formula 1 McLaren back in 2011 at Watkins Glen.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
It will come as a nice break from NASCAR for Stewart, who has grown increasingly frustrated with penalties issued to his drivers by NASCAR. He even said that he would not attend any NASCAR race until the end of the year if he could.