Tony Stewart's latest racing challenge: His wife's 330-mph NHRA car

Matt Baker, Tampa Bay Times on

Published in Auto Racing

TAMPA, Fla. — When racing legend Tony Stewart’s wife brought up the idea of starting a family last spring, Stewart figures he handled it well.

For all of 30 seconds.

Then Stewart subconsciously switched from husband mode to car-owner mode, thinking through the sponsorship and business implications for Tony Stewart Racing if his wife — professional drag racer Leah Pruett — got pregnant during the NHRA season.

“At the end of that 10 minutes,” Stewart said, “I realized if I didn’t get back over in husband mode really quick, I wasn’t going to have to worry about it.”

Months later, Stewart has something else to worry about: another unexpected chapter in his Hall of Fame career.

Pruett is in the cockpit at Bradenton Motorsports Park for the three-day PRO Superstar Shootout (which ends Saturday). After that, Stewart will take her spot in his team’s top fuel car when the NHRA season begins with next month’s Gatornationals in Gainesville.


Pruett brought up the scenario last spring, but Stewart wasn’t remotely interested or ready. The three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and former IndyCar champion was early in his first drag racing season in a lower class (sportsman) and driving a top alcohol car that’s 50 mph slower than his wife’s machine.

“I was still hanging on for dear life to the alcohol car at that time,” Stewart said.

That wasn’t the case when the conversation resumed in the fall. Pruett — Stewart’s wife of two-plus years — was sure she wanted to take the 2024 season off to try to start their family. Stewart, in husband mode, supported the decision that was hers to make. As a competitor, Stewart is still amazed by how she was able to put her career in the backseat after her best season (third in points).

“To come off a year like she had and to make that decision,” Stewart said, “I don’t know if I could ever be as tough as she is from that standpoint and make a tough decision like that.”


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