Three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart has taken on a brand new problem. Or as he views it, two new challenges.
Stewart began a drag-racing workforce two years in the past along with his wife, Leah Pruett, as one in every of his drivers. Pruett will not race in 2024 as she and Stewart focus on making an attempt to start out a family. Her substitute within the NHRA prime gas dragster? Stewart.
“I maintain throwing massive challenges in my racing profession, and this was one which wasn’t deliberate,” Stewart stated Thursday. “When Leah stated it was her resolution [to temporarily step out of the car], the very first dialog we had about it, I spent the primary 30 seconds in husband mode within the dialogue after which morphed into automobile proprietor mode realizing the timing of this and the way it might have an effect on a season or two seasons.
“And by the tip of a 10-minute dialog, I noticed if I did not shut up quickly, I wasn’t going to have to fret about it as a result of she would divorce me.”
Pruett, 35, isn’t pregnant however felt it was greatest to step apart to focus on starting a family. She is coming off a yr by which she received two occasions and completed a career-best third within the prime gas standings.
“Me seeing him develop in such a small period of time, there was no query in my thoughts that he’s the correct match for this place,” Pruett stated.
This will be Stewart’s second full season of drag racing as he completed second final yr within the NHRA prime alcohol division, a stepping stone to the highest NHRA divisions.
“My aim is to not suck,” the 52-year-old Stewart stated. “My aim is to not get fired by my wife and never kill myself driving this factor. I believe we’ll be wonderful. It’s simply going to be a matter of time.
“Every time we have jumped into a special kind of race automobile and totally different type of motorsports, there’s all the time a studying curve. And that is no totally different. This has in all probability been one of many hardest issues that I’ve ever needed to be taught to drive.”
Stewart stated the time dedication to the highest gas automobile will be much like his dedication final yr to his racing and NHRA groups. He additionally owns (or co-owns) the NASCAR Stewart-Haas Racing group, a sprint-car workforce, Eldora Speedway in Ohio and the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) Series. He introduced in October that he had offered the All-Star Circuit of Champions sprint-car collection he owns to racers Kyle Larson and Brad Sweet.
“We did not get the place we’re with our sprint-car workforce, with our race monitor, with our collection, with the NASCAR program … with out having good folks. And that is what it takes.
“It would not take me to make all of it work. It takes me surrounding myself with good people who makes this work. That a part of the equation is not altering. What I’m going to be doing with my time goes to be a fraction totally different however actually not a lot totally different than what it was this present yr.”
Few individuals who know Stewart are doubtless shocked he nonetheless desires to race. But what scares Stewart extra — racing a automobile he has little expertise in or probably being a father?
“I’ve been asking myself that actually the final seven days,” Stewart stated. “I’ve come to an answer on that: I’m far more scared about starting a family, I can barely take care of myself. … I haven’t got any expertise as a mother or father, however I’ve a variety of expertise driving.
“This is certainly one of many largest jumps I’ve ever made my driving profession, however at the least I’ve a bit of little bit of an thought of what to anticipate and what is going on on. The family aspect of it, I’m nonetheless studying the right way to attempt to be a median husband at greatest at this level. And making an attempt to learn to be a father on the similar time is simply one other problem. But that is what our life’s all about. It’s all the time about distinctive and new challenges and the right way to accomplish our objectives.”
Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent many years masking motorsports, together with the previous 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene journal and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass.
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