The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) had a major shakeup today, with two huge announcements surrounding the Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) camp. The first announcement was the return of 8x Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher to full-time competition in 2022. Schumacher will be piloting Leah Pruett’s current ride with her Crew Chief Todd Okuhara tuning the car.
But the biggest announcement of the day was from the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) and World of Outlaws Sprint Car owner Tony Stewart. Stewart announced that his Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) identity would be fielding two entries (1 for Top Fuel, 1 for Funny Car) for the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series.
Stewart stated he first experienced NHRA competition when Don and Tony Schumacher hosted him at the 2009 NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indy, through some mutual sponsorships. But it wasn’t until he started dating Leah Pruett that he got hooked on the sport, after being around her team over the past two seasons.
“I appreciate all forms of racing, and I’ve always been intrigued about drag racing and NHRA, in particular. Back in 2009, when Tony Schumacher and I were both representing the U.S. Army, I got to hang out with him and Don Schumacher at the U.S. Nationals. Tony ended up winning, and after taking it all in, I was hooked. But it wasn’t until I met Leah and started going to races regularly, where I saw the strategy and the preparation firsthand, that I truly understood it.”
It was no surprise that Stewart unveiled his fiancée Leah Pruett would be piloting his Top Fuel entry for 2022. Pruett who has 25 years of drag racing experience in NHRA competition, currently has 9 wins in the Top Fuel category, the 2010 Nostalgia Funny Car title in the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series, and was the 2018 NHRA Factory Stock Showdown champion in her Dodge Challenger Drag Pak.
“It’s a very unique opportunity to control my own destiny with my almost-husband in a sport I’m absolutely passionate about,” Pruett told The Associated Press. “That’s an experience and opportunity that nobody would pass up, and I feel like I’ve been prepping my whole life for something like this… to apply all of my talents to something grand in partnership and alongside somebody sharing the same goals.”
The biggest news of the day from TSR was the announcement that 3x NHRA Funny Car champion and current point leader Matt Hagan would also leave DSR after the 2021 season to join TSR. Hagan who also has 39 wins in NHRA competition, has been a huge ambassador for the Mopar and Dodge brands since 2009.
“Don Schumacher has been a huge chapter in my racing career, and we’ve won a whole lot of trophies and multiple championships together,” Hagan said. “This next chapter with Tony Stewart is one I’m excited for. I’m ready to go racing. I’m jumping into this new program with two feet, and I’m confident in the package we’re bringing into the 2022 season with TSR.”
Stewart said that a manufacturer and the team’s technical alliance associate, along with corporate partners, will be announced at a later date. Stewart currently has a large alliance with Ford Motor Company through his NASCAR and World of Outlaws teams. Ford Motor Company currently does have partnerships in NHRA, especially in Funny Car competition with owner/driver Bob Tasca III.
If TSR decides to continue its partnership with Ford for its entries in NHRA, it will mean a massive loss to the Dodge//SRT and Mopar brands.
Stewart stated that a manufacturer and the team’s technical alliance associate, along with corporate partners, will be announced at a later date.
Although there hasn’t been an official announcement in who would fill Hagan’s spot after 2021, many people are pointing to Tommy Johnson, Jr. Johnson, who assumed the driving responsibilities of Hagan’s machine at both the Indianapolis and Reading events when Hagan tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Dodge//SRT NHRA U.S. Nationals. Johnson and the Dickie Venables-led team suffered a disappointing DNQ in Indy, only to rebound by winning in Reading.
Johnson finished second in the 2020 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Funny Car points, behind Hagan. Due to a lack of sponsorship, Johnson had to sit out of full-time competition during 2021.
You can watch the full announcement, at the top of this page.
What do you think of Hagan and Pruett’s decision to jump to TSR for 2022? Who would you like to see replace Hagan in a DSR funny car? Let us know in the comments below or in the MoparInsiders forums.