Motorsports standout Tony Stewart has been a success at every level and in every form of racing that he’s tried, so it’s probably no surprise that the three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion had no problem in his recent introduction to drag racing at the Frank Hawley School of Drag Racing.
Stewart, accompanied by NHRA Top Fuel star Leah Pruett and a camera crew, documented his runs in the school’s Super Comp and Top Alcohol Dragster machines at Florida’s Bradenton Motorsports Park, and “Smoke” took right to his new rides, according to his headmaster.
“He’s world-class at anything he’s ever done, so it didn’t surprise me that he had no problems,” said Hawley, a two-time NHRA Funny Car world champion who’s been teaching amateurs and pros from all disciplines the correct way down the dragstrip over the last three decades. “He was a great guy, easy to talk to, and very humble. What a neat guy.”
After some passes in the Super Comp car to familiarize himself with the Christmas Tree and staging systems, Stewart moved into the school’s Alcohol Dragster.
The alcohol car is equipped with a Crowerglide transmission and shifts automatically as opposed to the traditional manual 3-speed of a normal NHRA blown alcohol dragster.
“We use that setup to allow new drivers to learn the routine you would use to drive an A/Fuel [Dragster] or Top Fuel car, but they’re still plenty fast,” explained Hawley. “We want them to see how it steers and handles and what you can and can’t do with it. Obviously, for someone like Tony who is used to seeing the world at 200 mph or faster, that wasn’t an issue."
All told, Stewart made about a dozen runs between the two cars and earned a Top Dragster license. He’ll need to make some additional runs to get ether a Top Alcohol or Top Fuel license, and while Stewart has not publicly announced any intentions yet to compete in either class, his interest in the sport speaks volumes about its place in the world of motorsports and its top drivers.