Drag Illustrated Issue 169, June/July 2021 - Page 75

WITH CONFLICTING SPONSORS IN NEARLY EVERY CATEGORY , STEWART COULDN ’ T MAKE HIS TOP FUEL TEST PASSES ( LEFT ) IN PRUETT ’ S MOPAR-BRANDED DRAGSTER ( ABOVE ), SO THEY SWAPPED IN BRANDING- FREE BODY PANELS FOR HIS TOP-SECRET TEST SESSIONS IN LAS VEGAS AND CHARLOTTE .
ing their whole lives , and even more so now that they ’ re together . Pruett started racing Jr . Dragsters as a young girl and moved her way up through Nostalgia Funny Car , NHRA Pro Mod , and since 2013 , Top Fuel . Stewart started out racing go-karts as a kid and has since done just about all there is to do in circle track racing . He ’ s won championships on dirt and on pavement , and he remains the only driver to win championships in IndyCar and NASCAR . With three NASCAR Cup Series championships , he ’ s a NASCAR Hall of Famer . His business portfolio includes race teams in multiple different series , three racetracks , a communication firm , a custom R / C car business , three racing series , and a charitable foundation .
Other than a brief encounter at a sponsor event in 2019 , Pruett and Stewart first met early last year via FaceTime through an introduction by none other than drag racing icon Don “ the Snake ”
Prudhomme , who insisted Stewart had to meet Pruett while they were on an offroad trip in Glamis . They hung out together in Florida in the week leading up the NHRA Gatornationals in March . When the COVID-19 outbreak put the racing world on hold , Pruett invited Stewart to visit with her in Lake Havasu . Those few days turned into four months , as they quarantined together until Stewart ’ s sprint car program returned to action in the summer .
“ We got to literally spend four months with each other as a man and a woman ,” Pruett starts , “ not race car drivers being on the road and traveling and doing all the crazy stuff that we do . It gave us a chance to really get to know each other before we started adding the racing elements to it .”
The dirt racing world emerged from the COVID shutdown earlier than the NHRA Camping World Series did , so Pruett started attending World of Outlaws and All Star Circuit of Champions sprint car races with Stewart until she could get back in her Top Fuel dragster . Stewart got his first up-close look at nitro racing when Pruett returned to racing at the first of four NHRA national events at Indy . As a lifelong circle track racer , Stewart was fascinated by the 11,000-horsepower car and its vast differences compared to stock cars and sprint cars .
“ Scott [ Okuhara ], the car chief on the car , his ears would be bleeding because I was asking so many questions during the day and wanting to understand and know what ’ s going on because I ’ m not a great spectator ,” Stewart says . “ I mean I like going to the races , I like watching , but when you ’ re emotionally attached to somebody that ’ s doing it , I want to know what ’ s going on . I want to understand why and just learn .
“ I ’ ve been in motorsports for over 40 years now ,” Stewart continues , “ so to get involved in something totally different , totally outside the box , from what I ’ m used to , it was exciting for me . It was a lot of fun to challenge my mind , to learn something totally new , not just a variation of going from a dirt car to a pavement car or this and that . This was so totally different .”
Asking questions and wanting to know more about what Pruett was experiencing turned into Stewart getting into a dragster himself . He went to a private two-day class at Frank Hawley ’ s Drag Racing School at Bradenton Motorsports Park . He went twice , in fact , not because he didn ’ t do well , but because he wasn ’ t happy with minor things he didn ’ t do perfectly . Once he felt comfortable with his progress in Hawley ’ s Super Comp car and blown alcohol dragster , Stewart , Pruett and team owner Don Schumacher started to plan a Top Fuel test session for the driver
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