Drag Illustrated Issue 169, June/July 2021 - Page 79

be able to do a burnout , if nothing else , or try to go to the 60-foot cone .
Coincidentally , Frank Hawley was also there in Vegas . How helpful was it to have him there in your corner as you moved up to Top Fuel ? STEWART : The dates that worked for us happened to fall on two days that Frank had driving schools going on in Vegas . So the same guy that had taught me for four days was actually able to see the next step .
That was something cool that Frank and I talked about , that he ’ s run hundreds of drivers that have become professional drag racers and ran them through his classes but he never gets to see the next car that they drive on the next pass . Literally , Frank got to see the very next run after his class , me getting in the next car , which was her Top Fuel car . So that was really cool .
Being able to have him off to the side that if I had a question from the driver ’ s perspective that Leah couldn ’ t answer , it was nice to know he was there too .
What was it like having Leah as your coach as well ? STEWART : What was really cool about it , like she mentioned earlier , was we got to do it together . My fiancée got to be my coach . I had the confidence , knowing that unless she all of a sudden didn ’ t want to get married , she wasn ’ t going to let anything happen . She wasn ’ t going to put me in a bad position or let me get myself in a bad position . It took the anxiety away from me , of not knowing what to expect . She was just a super good instructor , and very detail oriented about everything . She knows how detail oriented I am about everything that I do . It made for two days that were a lot of fun and enjoyable . But it was really cool to finally drive a car . Twelve years ago , Schumacher said , “ Hey , we ’ re going to get you over 300 miles an hour .” Well , we accomplished that on day one on run four .
Changing gears here , let ’ s talk about drag racing as a whole . Tony , one of the biggest pitches in drag racing sponsorship has always been that drag racing and nitro racing in specific is a great value . As a team owner in NASCAR and in sprint car racing , how do you value drag racing ? STEWART : At surface value , it was hard to understand the value because how can there be a lot of value when the car is only on the track maybe eight minutes total a day ? If you have a perfect day and get to the finals , you ’ re going to be on track eight minutes . It ’ s like how do you sell that when in NASCAR , the car is on track for three and a half hours going around ?
But what I realized very , very quickly was that it ’ s a totally different environment . Drag racing

“ If you ’ re a diehard drag racing fan , the best thing you could ever do is go down to Frank Hawley ’ s school and just take a Super Comp class for two days . It ’ s one of the coolest things you can ever do ,” Stewart says .

provides a different perspective because throughout the entire event , you get to spend time around the pits , like you ’ re embedded with the crew while they prep the car for its next run . And then there are some quiet times where in the hospitality area right next to where the car is being worked on , you can talk with your guests and have lunch .
The great thing with NHRA is you get to watch the divisions that you want to watch , and then you get to go into the pits with the same single ticket . You ’ re right there . You can be there smelling the same fumes , hearing the same noise , being literally 30 to 40 feet away from the engine while it ’ s running in the pit area .
No doubt the value ’ s there . The TV package is getting better , and having that ability for partners to be that close to the cars and the pit area , and be that close to the action , watching the crew guys tear the motors down and rebuild in less than an hour , that ’ s great access .
So it ’ s apples and oranges , but it accomplishes the same thing . There ’ s a ton of value in NHRA right now .
We brought our business manager at Stewart-Haas Racing to Charlotte and he got to see one round of qualifying . He brought his son with him , and they were both vibrating when they left . I mean super excited about it . They were like , “ Wow , we didn ’ t know it was like this .” And it ’ s like , “ Yeah , I didn ’ t either until I got here .” I ’ ve been in racing for 40 years and didn ’ t realize it had that kind of access . So it ’ s definitely worthwhile for partners to just go one time to a race and be a part of it as a fan . You ’ re going to get hooked .
Leah , Tony ’ s been building this Camping World SRX Series , helping shape the series , putting his own twists on a racing experience . It ’ s all these big names from various forms of racing competing in identically prepared cars . If you were to do the drag racing version of that , what would the SRX of drag racing look like ? PRUETT : You ’ d really have to , unfortunately , wind it back a lot of notches . So realistically , we couldn ’ t have all Top Fuel cars be the same because that ’ s
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