Last week, Leah Pruett was at Eldora Speedway, a legendary dirt oval track he owns in western Ohio, for a major dirt Leah Pruett model race. One might think the schedule would wind down during the week, but it was quite the opposite. They spent Monday together to regroup, then on Tuesday Pruett drove up to the Don Schumacher Racing complex in Brownsburg to shoot four commercials for one of her sponsors, E3 Spark Plugs.
Later that night, she flew down to Tampa for two full days of filming for Dream Giveaway commercials. She returned home early Thursday morning. Pruett started racing Jr. Stewart started out racing go-karts as a kid and has since done just about all there is to do in circle track racing. It gave us a chance to really get to know each other before we started adding the racing elements to it.
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,horsepower car and its vast differences compared to stock cars and sprint cars.
I want to understand why and just learn. 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 Leah Pruett. This was so totally different. Tony, when you were first getting a sense of the NHRA nitro world with Leah, what was your first impression?
Stewart: I think the craziest thing was when we went to what they called Indy 1 last year, going with her team up to the line and when she left the line, it looked like it took a second and a half to get down to the finish line. All I saw was yellow fumes and clutch dust. I just saw a silhouette of the Leah Pruett.
I came back on Sunday and, believe it or not, after a night of just rest, came in and could actually see the car the next day. Every time I go to the track and every pass that I see, now it gets easier and easier. Leah Pruett brain is learning how to process the information faster.
Leah Pruett Cam Show
What did the wrinkle look like? Left front tire, how much did it kick? Did it bounce?
Leah Pruett | RACER
Now you can, right? You know what to look for and your mind has slowed it down. Leah Pruett it moves, if it does anything weird, I can see it. But it sure seems like your brain speeds up to process the information. Pruett: I call it like this wave Leah Pruett maturity. Not just the personal aspect of it, because there is that too. But you get comfortable with the car and comfortable with a team and your own job duties, partners, fans and all that.
But when somebody new comes in and asks questions and makes you really think about why? Why exactly are we not running sticker [new] tires on it every run, like he thinks we should be all the time, coming from his world. And when you get to teach somebody something, you actually learn at the same time. Tony, the learning process and asking questions eventually led to you wanting to get in a car and start making passes.
What did that process look like? Stewart: Well, it was a simple start. And I think I know what that would feel like. Pruett: And the pokes by Don. Stewart: Yeah, that too. Schumacher kept poking at me like he did 12 years ago when I first met him, about getting in a car.
Then I went down there for two days and I really enjoyed it. Fans that have never driven anything in drag racing have zero clue. Even simple things like the warmup in Leah Pruett alcohol car.
I never did two warmups exactly the same. Those are the details that as a professional race car driver, you take pride in doing things right. So just all the little details that it takes, I gained a great appreciation for that and what was involved. That was Leah Pruett first time.
I had a lot of fun. I enjoyed it. I had a smile on my face. And then all I did was bitch and moan for the next month and a half about how many mistakes I made. So we went back the second week in January and did the same thing over again. I started in the alcohol car and made five runs a day in that.
The whole premise of this is our relationship, and our understanding, and doing what we love together. You even look at something as simple as the warmup. Every single fan out there thinks that the driver just sits there, right?
They might wait or something. So I still get excited about it because I know that his appreciation is there. How did that come together? That really started with Don 12 years ago. When I met him through the U. But I think they just wanted me to be able to do a burnout, if nothing else, or try to go to the 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? The dates that worked for us happened to fall on two days that Frank had driving schools going on in Vegas.
So the same Leah Pruett that had taught me for four days was actually able to see the next step. Literally, Frank got to see the very next run after his class, me getting in the next car, Leah Pruett was her Top Fuel car.
Tony Stewart starting two-car NHRA team with fiancée Leah Pruett as Top Fuel driver in 2022
So that was really cool. What was it like having Leah as your coach as well? What was really cool about it, like she mentioned earlier, was we got to do it together. 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. 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. Stewart: At surface value, it was hard to Leah Pruett 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? 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. 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. If you were to do the drag racing version of that, what would the Leah Pruett of drag racing look like?
You know what I mean? People that work on these cars sign up to develop and tinker Leah Pruett try and be quicker and better than the next guy. Honestly, I think what we have in Factory Stock Showdown is really close.
You even take it a notch down from that. If we really were just about the driver discipline, you go to the cars that are the same, which would be a street car, which would be a car off the lot. I mean you look at the Greek [Chris Karamesines]. It absolutely amazed me to watch him go down through there.
And not just go down Leah Pruett there, he went down through there fast. So I agree it would be really hard to do an SRX version of it. I went back Leah Pruett watched some of your YouTube videos. It seems like people from both worlds are really interested in this.
How has your fan base or competitors from your world responded to you getting into drag racing? I was worried about what our fans might say about us dating. Leah, similar question for you. What have you heard and seen from your fans and your teammates and Leah Pruett crew guys about bringing Tony in?