Stewart was thinking about his NHRA future after Madison Payne defeated the 51-year-old NHRA rookie in last Sunday’s final on the Las Vegas Strip at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The multi-motorsport champion passed his first test at the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series this weekend, qualifying and finishing second
He insisted that his goal with the Nevada Nationals at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway was to earn seat time. He said before the race that the weekend could decide whether he fell in love with drag racing
Tony Stewart stressed that his drag racing debut with the Nevada Nationals in Las Vegas wasn’t about winning.
In the end, he didn’t — but he won a top-alcohol racing victory by two thousandths of a second on the Las Vegas Strip at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday.
Madison Payne, a sophomore from Claremont, Calif., a third-generation drinking racer, beat Stewart when both were killed by the first “Wally” statue NHRA founder Wally Parks) was abandoned. He couldn’t beat her 5.262, 275.90 in 5.258 seconds at 271.57 mph on the quarter mile.
It was the Payne family’s 91st Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series victory. She is the daughter of former Top Fuel driver Shelly Anderson-Payne and Top Alcohol Funny Car and Pro Modified veteran Jay Payne. She is also the granddaughter of legendary racing engine maker Brad Anderson.
She said: “I don’t feel like I’m under any pressure (to compete with Stewart). I see his head on and just hold on and hope for the best. I’m happy to have my trophy. I have them all over my house and no one Write my name on them.”
Stewart was second in the 16-car race, although he never ran with the driver in the oncoming lane before Friday’s second qualifying session. Then on Saturday afternoon, in the McPhillips Racing Mobil 1 Nitro Jet, he defeated the first two opponents in the knockout round, James Stevens and Taylor Witt. Stewart beat former class champion Chris Demke in the semifinals as Sunday’s playoffs resumed.
“We said earlier this weekend that the main goal is to gain experience,” Stewart said. “It’s not about focusing on performance. It’s about learning routines and learning how to do them properly, and just getting a weekend experience. We’re happy with the experience so far.”
Then, on Sunday afternoon, he took a less veiled swipe at NASCAR, saying, “I’m definitely having more fun than I’ve had in a long time, definitely not where there are fenders. So I love the sport. .”
Stewart also owns a two-car Camping World Drag Racing Series nitro-class team that includes Top Fuel wife Leah Pruett and Sunday Las Vegas Funny Car champion Matt Hagen. So, does Stewart think he’s going to stay in drag racing and possibly move up to the top fuel ranks to race with Pruitt?
“Honestly, I didn’t expect that far,” Stewart said. “This weekend is just about gaining experience. Really, after the weekend, we’ll sit down and say, ‘Hey, is this something we want to pursue and try to do more? ”
“(Friday) was a little weird. I mean, the way the schedule was going was pretty smooth. We did one lap earlier in the day, then two laps in the middle of the day, and then we did a second lap in the evening. Where( Saturday) Now that I’m running let’s get ready for Leah and Matt’s first race today and then I’ll have my first knockout round. Then they run Q4 and then when I get through E1 I’ll be in 5 :30 to go again. So the schedule is very different. Can’t just show up as a driver and not a team owner. I still have a responsibility as the owner,” he said.
“After the weekend, we sat there and said, ‘Is that overwhelming? Is it too much? I just need to stay in my driveway and be the owner? Or does this seem feasible? Honestly, I will Rely on Rich McPhillips, Sr. and Jr. (owners of his Top Alcohol Dragster entry) to see how comfortable they are.
Pruitt said: “There were a lot of problems and we didn’t really have a plan other than enjoying life, racing together and conquering new careers. It’s a challenging sport. He understands that. Being able to race together is invaluable. .”
He said the takeaway from his first two days as an official drag racer was that “everyone backed us up . . . the guys who came down from the pro box. . . the alcohol department, the drivers and the staff to what they did to me today. Enthusiastic support. Just a great feeling. Excited to get through two laps (Saturday) and ride with the pros on Sunday. Means a lot to me.”
“There are a lot of times when I’m a little nervous because if you don’t know and you’re out of sync, you should be nervous. If you’re not, you probably shouldn’t,” he said. “But Pops’ (Richie McPhillips Sr.) conversation is very normal – he has such a calm demeanor, you just talk to him, you don’t have to talk about it, it makes you nervous, you just talk to him and relax, And you.” You’ll know when you’re working with the people you click. This McPhillips team is great. It’s fun to race with them, they have a really fast car. ”
Stewart has said this weekend will be the time to judge whether he’s in love with drag racing. The courtship has only just begun, but all he does know is, “Yeah, I want to go on a second date.”
Connor Mason is a passionate automotive journalist and the author behind the popular website motonews.info. With years of experience in the automotive industry, Connor is well-versed in all things related to cars and motorcycles.