At a time when some people are looking forward to retirement, Tony Stewart seems to be just getting started. The 52-year-old has raced in the Indy 500, winning 3 IndyCar races and the before moving to NASCAR where he amassed 49 wins over 618 starts and three NASCAR Cup series titles

Along the way, he continued to race, and win in dirt cars, sprint cars, midgets and added team ownership to his resume in 2000, when he . Since its inaugural season in 2001, TSR has earned 27 owner championships – 14 in USAC, nine in the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series and four in the All-Star Circuit of Champions TQ Midgets. He’s also added entire racing series to his ownership portfolio and

In 2008 Stewart left his longtime NASCAR team and . He left full-time NASCAR racing after the 2016 season but hasn’t slowed down. He married Leah Pruett in 2021 a year after Stewart was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Pruett has raced in the NHRA’s Top Fuel division since 2013. After the marriage it was little surprise when that Tony Stewart Racing would be entering the NHRA fielding entries for Leah in Top Fuel and Matt Hagan in Funny Car.


Owning an NHRA team gives Stewart unique insight into the differences, and similarities of owning a NASCAR team and one that competes in the NHRA.

“Well, it's a lot smaller operation, obviously, as far as personnel that it takes to do it all,” Stewart said of the NHRA team. “That's probably one of the biggest things that you notice right out of the gate, from an ownership side.

“I think total, we have around 25, 26 people at TSR that are just on the Nitro teams. You know, versus at one time, I think we were up to 385 or something at SHR. So the amount of people it takes is drastically different.

“It costs less money to operate a Nitro team at a level that needs to be done at; when I say that I mean not cutting costs, not having to time parts out too long. You can do it for a reasonable budget. I feel like the hard part is just generating the sponsorship to do it.

“But on the NHRA side versus the Cup side, I mean, it's less than half the cost of running a full time Cup team, one car from car to car that is.”

And while there are differences between the NHRA and NASCAR when it comes to the number of people and the costs there are similarities.

“Yeah, absolutely,” Stewart said chuckling. “It's attention to detail and it's people, it's hiring the right people to do the right jobs. And that becomes even more critical when you have a small company. And when I say small company, I mean, each of these teams has eight to nine people on them. So when you have a group that's that small, it's very, very important. It's this way in all aspects of it whether it's the NASCAR program, sprint car program, an NHRA program, having the right people in the right positions is absolutely one of the biggest keys.”

One of the things Stewart has been able to carry over from NASCAR to the NHRA is a legacy sponsor. Mobil 1 a synthetic motor oil owned by ExxonMobil has been with Stewart since he joined Stewart-Haas Racing. Because of that relationship It took little convincing to have them join Stewart when he

“One of the biggest things that happened was when I got the opportunity to run the alcohol car at Vegas a year ago,” Stewart said. “And I said, ‘Hey, you guys want to be a part of this?’ I said, ‘I think it'll get a bunch of media attention and it's not a big spend.’

“It was something that made sense for a one race deal and, and they got a ton of press from it, which made me feel good.”

Mobil 1 signed on for the NHRA season with TSR in Top Fuel and that was rewarded when both team’s Top Fuel drivers, Leah and Matt Hagan recently won in Texas at the NHRA Fall nationals. Leah’s dragster carried a Mobil 1 paint scheme.

“For me, selfishly,” Stewart said. “That even made it a more special weekend than it already was.”

As for attracting new sponsors to the NHRA team.

“I think it's a little different,” Stewart said. “I think it just depends on how they want to activate. That seems to be the biggest thing that we see.

“Where a Cup race you bring your customers, you bring your people, your executives, they get to go down on pit road before the race. They go up into a suite and get to watch the race from a suite. And it's a really good platform for that.

“Where the NHRA side is drastically different. Polar opposite in all reality. I mean, those cars are only going to run two, they're only going to be there two minutes at a time, and the rest of the time they're going to be back in the pit. That's why we have the hospitality rigs in our pit areas. So we can have that same entertainment, but in a different form. And for a lot of our partners being able to see the work going on.

“That's something that's a big draw to those guys. It is a polar opposite of what we're used to seeing, or what I'm used to seeing, I should say, versus what we do on the NHRA side. It's the action really the majority of the actions in the pit versus the majority of the action being on the racetrack like we see it in NASCAR now.”

Stewart credits new fellow with helping him get his own NHRA team up and running.

“Those two in particular were a very, very, very large help,” he said. “Antron was the first one to kind of start the cycle there, so we leaned on to Antron a lot at the beginning. But then Ron and I were kind of going through the same thing at the same time of trying to acquire the assets, figure out where we were going to put these teams and how we were going to build our programs.”

Part of the connection between the new teams came from Kelly Antonelli, wife of Capp’s crew chief Dean Antonelli. She has worked behind the scenes for some of the biggest teams in the sport such as John Force Racing for years. She left John Force and landed at TSR.

“Us having Kelly,” Stewart said. “I mean, you know, as much as we all want to be competitive in motor sports, there's times and places for that. And, and then there's times to be family. And this was one of those scenarios where being family was something we all embraced and we're all excited about.

“You know, I knew what Ron was trying to do, Ron knew what we were trying to do, and we both from day one were supporting each other. Then as it kind of kept manifesting and growing, when it came down to getting the business stuff done, we made the decision to share Kelly with Ron and help out over there when, whenever he needs it.”

And it’s that family atmosphere that Stewart sees in the NHRA among the teams that seems to be lost on other forms of motorsports, like NASCAR.

“The crew guys at the end of an NHRA day, the crew guys are wandering around visiting each other's pits because they're all friends,” Stewart said. “I mean, most of our shops are all around the Brownsburg Indiana area.

“But even aside from that, I mean, those teams, you're around that group of people more than you are your own family a lot of times. I think it just creates that sense of family and family atmosphere. And like I said, it's 385 guys in an organization and you're taking, you know, 75 or 85 of those guys to the racetrack each week. This is literally for our two teams a total of 25 people or 26 people, counting the hospitality program. For Antron and Capps, it's eight to 10 that are going each week. So it is a small family and it has that small family atmosphere.

“You know, NASCAR absolutely did the right thing years ago when they said, ‘this is what time the garage opens, and at this time the garage closes’. It's kind of like March of the elephants. You see everybody coming in at the same time. You see them leaving at the same time. But that was a smart thing for what was going on in our sport at the time.

“And, to now have that ability to be on the NHRA side where it's just a different dynamic; NHRA absolutely did the right thing with that, and that was a, that was a very, very smart decision. But it's nice having the atmosphere that I get to be a part of and the majority of the year with the NHRA side where car owners and competition directors and crew guys are all wandering around and hanging out with each other.”

In the NHRA seeing those crews hanging out and grilling out and eating together isn’t the norm in other motorsports.

“You know, our sprint car team, for example, when they go to the racetrack, when the A main's over, they all load up, they all go find their car wash that they know is on the way to their hotel. And that's just the cycle. I mean, nobody hangs around and BS’s, they do that during the day, and at different events where there's time in between. But when the races over, nobody just hangs out and has a good time and relaxes; it’s pack up as quick as you can get to the car wash, get down to the road, to the hotel, because just have to. That's the grind and that's the nature of the beast with those cars.

“I enjoy the atmosphere at an NHRA race. I feel like it's something that I always liked about motorsports and just as time's gone on, it's got so big in some other areas that, it kind of lost that family aspect of it.”

With his years of experience in NASCAR and other forms of motorsport, Stewart said his short time in the NHRA he’s tried to bring some of the same mindsets, concepts, and other things that have helped bring him success in motorsports to the NHRA. Stewart is on an NHRA advisory board with Antron Brown and Ron Capps. The goal is to make sure all the teams are doing things that will make the sport financially feasible for them now, and in the future.

“We all sit there in the room and look at each other and smile and grin and go, ‘this is worth fighting for,’” he said. “This sport in particular is something that I believe is definitely worth fighting for.

“To work hand in hand with Ron and, and Antron… they've been a part of the sport way longer than I have, obviously. But the fact that we all within one year of each other started this journey of becoming our own team owners and building our own programs, that's something that I think will, the three of us in particular, will always kind of have that bond, because of what it took to get it done and, and the challenges and the hurdles and the way that we all communicated and worked with each other.”

It’s made it easier for Stewart to add NHRA team owner to his resume.

“I've appreciated it,” he said. “You couldn't ask for two better people to work with than Ron and Antron and because of those guys; like I said, we have that family atmosphere and they had that, the sport had that long before I got there. But it was nice to get included into a family like that.”

Stewart has run the entire 2023 season in his alcohol dragster. He’s currently second in the point standings. This success has led to him having to answer the same question most of the season: Would he ever consider moving up to Top Fuel and racing against his wife?

“I keep telling everybody, I'm like, ‘none of you people have thought this through before you thought to open your mouth and ask the question,” he said laughing. “And they kind of look at me funny, like, when you whistle at a dog and they turn their head sideways a little bit, they look at me that way.

“And then I say, ‘you got to think about it from my standpoint, if I ever went to a Top Fuel class and had to race against my wife and I beat her, I’d get kicked to the couch for eternity. Never do I get to sleep in the bed again.’

“If I lose to her, then I can't look at myself in the mirror each day because I'm too competitive and I don't want to lose to anybody in some way, shape, or fashion. We would make that way too competitive amongst ourselves.

“I don't see that being productive for me in any way, shape, or form. and Matt Hagan's way too big for me to try to kick him out of his car and drive his.”

So don’t expect to see Tony Stewart racing his wife anytime soon. For now, he will simply enjoy his family time.

“Whatever I do or don't do down the future, I've had a blast with this,” he said. “I love the ownership side. I absolutely love our teams and our guys and girls on the team that make it all happen. “