Tony Stewart returns to full-time racing with NHRA Top Alcohol dragster team Tony Kanaan says Indy 500 will be his final race before retiring from IndyCar
NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart will return to full-time competition as an NHRA drag racer this season.
Stewart, a three-time NASCAR champion, will drive the Top Alcohol dragster for McPhillips Racing throughout the 2023 NHRA season. Stewart, who turns 52 in May, will be sponsored by longtime partner Mobil 1.
Stewart made his NHRA debut in a Top Alcohol dragster. last October at the Nevada Nationals, where he reached the final and placed second with a score of 0.0002 seconds. Stewart’s run of 5.258 seconds and 271.57 mph in the final fell just one inch short of victory.
Stewart, owner of a sprint car team and co-owner of NASCAR’s Stewart-Haas Racing, founded an NHRA team last year that fields one dragster in Top Fuel for his wife Leah Pruett and a Funny Car for Matt Hagan.
“We’ve been working on putting together this package with the McPhillips family to expand on what we did in Las Vegas last year and get back in place,” Stewart said. “I want to keep learning this sport and be able to compete more this year with a team that I really like.
“Trying to do something different is a hassle, but when you have a team like the McPhillips Racing team, everything becomes much easier.”
Stewart has won NASCAR, IndyCar and USAC championships and will compete in the NHRA national championship this year. Top drunk drivers are eligible to earn points in their first 10 national competitions. Their top six national records in their respective point-giving tournaments will add up to their total championship points.
Stewart isn’t sure the title is close.
“It’s hard to sit and know what expectations we should have for the year,” Stewart said. “I think as long as I keep learning more and more, trying to be more consistent in driving, keeping it in rhythm, trying to stay consistent with reaction time and improve reaction time, these are all goals for me. . I want to keep learning and getting better every weekend and every race we go to.”
Stewart’s first race as a full-time drag racer will be the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida next month. In addition to NHRA Nationals, Stewart will also compete in select Divisional Series races, starting with the Baby Gators at Gainesville Raceway March 1-5.
“It was like being a little kid again,” Stewart said. “When I was racing karts, I couldn’t wait until winter was over to start racing. That’s where I am again.”
Tony Kanaan’s final lap in the NTT IndyCar Series finally comes on May 28, when the veteran announced he was stepping down from 107th in the Indy 500 after a quarter-century career.
2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Announced Wednesday morning via social media that his last start will be at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
In the video he posted, Kanaan walks around the Brick Factory grounds and says, “It’s been a wonderful journey, but it’s not over yet. I will still have the pleasure of driving through the bricks again. Thank you all, see you on race day.”
🇺🇸It’s been a great journey, but it’s not over yet. I hope you guys for the last one in May.
🇺🇸 Let’s do this one last time. See you in May.@Arrow McLaren @IndyCar pic.twitter.com/lC1iY4GhT0
— Tony Canaan (@TonyCanaan) February 15, 2023
Last year, he was announced as a fourth team Dallara-Chevrolet driver for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team in the 2023 Indy 500. Kanaan finished third last year with Chip Ganassi Racing in his only IndyCar start for the 2022 season.
In May, Kanaan will drive the No. 66 Dallara-Chevy for Arrow McLaren under the main sponsorship of Smart Stop Self Storage. This number is a tribute to the history of McLaren Racing, commemorating Bruce McLaren’s victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966, the same year that the McLaren team entered its first Formula One race.
Fernando Alonso finished 66th when he failed to qualify for the 2019 Indy 500. Mark Donohue won the 1972 Indy 500 with No. 66.
During an afternoon press conference Wednesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Kanaan said he has no regrets, but “you’re never ready for this. As much as you’d like to go, it’s there. You have to make smart, right decisions at the right time. I wouldn’t want to come (to Indy) just to participate. There was a really good opportunity last year. I finished the race and was ready.”
Kanaan still said he expected to be “crying like a baby” during the pre-Indy 500 ceremonies, which would be his 22nd start on the 2.5-mile oval.
“I will miss him every day of my life,” Kanaan said. “I miss it now. But I think I’m fine. We start 100 days (before) Indy Friday and also start 100 days of crying on Friday. I’m fine, I agree with my decision and I have a good chance of winning this case.”
The popular Brazilian competed in four oval races with Ganassi (sharing 48th in the Dallar-Honda with Jimmie Johnson) in a partial schedule for 2021 that extended his career. Initially, Kanaan announced that the 2020 season would be his “last lap” in IndyCar.
But the 2004 series champion’s plans to hold a celebratory lap in honor of fans were thwarted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which limited crowd attendance.
Since then, Kanaan has often joked about his delayed retirement plans, noting at an IndyCar pre-season media event two weeks ago in Palm Springs, California that six-time series champion Scott Dixon “makes fun of me to this day.”
👀 @Arrow McLaren @IndyCar #punishment_photo @NBCSports pic.twitter.com/8Bcz4N9jqS
— Tony Canaan (@TonyCanaan) February 1, 2023
“This is the last, last, last, last lap, very last lap,” Kanaan told reporters on Feb. 1, when asked if he hoped to race Indy again in 2024. will definitely make a decision that depends not only on me.
At the time, Kanaan said he planned to make a decision about his future “when we cross the start-finish line that Sunday. When I win – if I win – I will put everyone in their place and say I’m coming back. That is exactly what happened last year.
“Now I think the focus is on this 500. It wasn’t a mistake, but we announced something two years ago and then there was a great opportunity with Jimmy (the ride). I’m not going to say, “That’s what I do.” Just let it be.”
In nearly 400 starts in the CART Champ Car and IndyCar Series from 1998 to 2022, Kanaan has 17 wins and 79 podium finishes.
His first win came on July 25, 1999 at the Michigan International Speedway with Jerry Forsythe #11 Reynard-Honda. His most recent win was in the season finale on August 30, 2014 at Auto Club Speedway in 10th place Dallara-Honda behind Ganassi.
Kanaan went on to compete in other series such as the Superstar Racing Experience and stock car racing in Brazil.
It’s sad to see Tony Kanaan being challenged, but like Kevin Harvick, you can’t ask for a longer career.
IndyCar has changed a lot since Tony debuted in 1998. Of his 17 career victories, only 3 come from tracks where IndyCar is still racing (Indy, Texas, Iowa). https://t.co/q18BUQJO60
— Nascarman (@nascarman_rr) February 15, 2023