Motor racing-Stewart's goal in Top Fuel drag racing, "Don't suck"

Jul 17, 2022; Morrison, CO, USA; NHRA team owner Tony Stewart during the Mile High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo

(Reuters) - A three-time NASCAR Cup and IndyCar series champion Tony Stewart has set three modest goals for his first season in an NHRA Top Fuel dragster.

'Don't suck, don't wreck his wife's car and don't kill himself'.

All worthy objectives for the 52-year-old NASCAR Hall of Famer, who in all probably has set the bar considerably higher with a chance to become the only driver to win championships in all three series (NASCAR, IndyCar, NHRA Top Fuel).

"My goal is to not suck, my goal is not get fired by my wife and not kill myself driving this thing," Stewart told reporters on Thursday after announcing the move. "Every time we have jumped into a different type of race car in a different form of motor sport there is always a learning curve and this is no different.

"This has probably been one of the hardest things that I've ever had to learn to drive.

"It is very much going to be a crash course learning curve, minus the crash."

While Stewart owns the team he will race for he needed to interview with his wife Leah Pruett to fill the seat she left vacant to start a family.

Stewart left the decision to his Pruett who said it was not an easy choice before finally settling on the father of her future children.

"It came down to selecting a driver which was not an easy task as some think, oh he's a shoe in Tony is your husband, team owner but that wasn't the case," explained Pruett. "You have to be very objective about something this important.

"You can't drive a top fuel dragster until you drive a top fuel dragster," added Pruett.

Top fuelers can produce 11,000 horsepower with the Nitromethane powered cars reaching speeds of 330 mph (531 kph) in a matter of seconds.

Harnessing that power requires a unique skill set that Stewart says has left him facing a sharp learning curve with the NHRA season opening Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida just three months away.

Stewart is not going into the season as a wide-eyed novice having competed full-time in the Top Alcohol class last season, where he finished second in the Rookie of the Year standings.

Still he will have big shoes to fill with his wife finishing third in the Top Fuel standings after losing to eventual champion Doug Kalitta in a winner-take-all final run at the season finale in Pomona.

"I'm way more scared about starting a family I can barely take care of myself," said Stewart, who is also co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing NASCAR team. "I don't have any experience as a parent but I have a lot of experience driving.

"At least I have a little bit of an idea about what to expect but the family side of it I'm still learning how to be an average husband at best and trying to learn to be a father at the same time is another challenge."

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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