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NHRA & NASCAR: Family Ties for Tony Stewart and Leah Pruett

Tony Stewart and Leah Pruett, Stewart’s wife, have exciting times ahead in 2024. (Photo: NHRA)

INDIANAPOLIS – Thursday marked a new day in NHRA Drag Racing as three-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion Tony Stewart announced he will step into Leah Pruett’s role of piloting the TSR Nitro Top Fuel Dragster in 2024 at the Performance Racing Industries Show.

However, that was not the only news shocking the masses in today’s press conference at the PRI show 2023. Stewart and Pruett, who have been married since Nov. 21, 2021, announced that Pruett will step out of the driver’s seat so that she and Stewart can start a family together.

In 2021, Stewart announced that TSR Nitro would be joining the NHRA full-time in the 2022 season with two team entries with a funny car team piloted by Matt Hagan and a Top Fuel team piloted by Pruett. Hagan won the first race for the team in March of 2022 in Gainesville, Florida. Shortly after, the boss man himself got behind the wheel of a Top Alcohol dragster for McPhillips Racing and performed well.

Although TSR Nitro may be new and exciting, for many race fans in the NASCAR and NHRA communities, this is not the first time that there has been this sort of crossover between sanctioning bodies.

NHRA and NASCAR have a long-standing history of having NASCAR drivers and team owners involved in the NHRA.

Over 30 years ago, the late John Andretti raced a Top Fuel Dragster for Jack Clark. Then, from 1995 to 1999, Joe Gibbs, former NFL coach and owner of Joe Gibbs Racing, fielded three cars in the NHRA as well. He owned a Top Fuel team with driver Cory McClenathan behind the wheel, along with a Funny Car team with driver Cruz Pedregon behind the wheel and Jim Yates fielding his Pro Stock Car.

In 2011, NASCAR Cup Series Champion Kurt Busch competed in Pro Stock Car with Roy and Allen Johnson at the NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida. He qualified well and was able to compete on Sunday. However, he ended up going out in the first round, losing to Erica Enders. 

Later, in 2017 rising NHRA Pro Stock star Tanner Gray, son of Former Pro Stock driver Shane Gray and grandson of Former Funny Car driver Johnny Gray, would win the Road to the Future Award and the then win the overall Pro Stock title in 2018 only to announce his retirement from Pro Stock. Not long after, he shared his newfound path that he and brother Taylor would take into the ARCA Menards Series. A few years down the road, the Gray brothers can be found in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

Other involvements between NHRA and NASCAR include a charity softball tournament held in Kannapolis, North Carolina in 2013. The NHRA vs. NASCAR softball tournament included many stars from both sanctioning bodies and benefitted the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and The Armed Forces Foundation. The NHRA would go on to win the event.

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