From Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor | nhra.com
Victory in Vegas: Tony Stewart collects his first NHRA national event win
Motorsports hall of famer Tony Stewart added another victory to his amazing resumé, winning the Top Alcohol Dragster at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in just his fourth national event start.
Tony Stewart, the first and only driver to win championships in stock cars, Indy cars, and Midget, Sprint, and Silver Crown cars, added another victory to his amazing resumé, winning the Top Alcohol Dragster at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Stewart raced to a final-round 5.324 at 269.62 mph to finish ahead of Todd Bruce (5.332), former world champ Chris Demke (5.355), and McPhillips Racing teammate Mike Coughlin (5.351).
It was just Stewart’s fourth national event start and came at the track where he made his class debut with a runner-up at last season’s penultimate event, where he lost a tight race in the final round against Madison Payne.
"When we raced here last fall, I was just ecstatic to make the finals," he said, "but today I told Leah [Pruett, wife and Top Fuel racer], 'I'm not happy to just be in the finals today. I said I want this.' As racers, you always want to win; nobody likes losing, but I think it was the perfect scenario last year; Madison [Payne] winning her first race was probably the best storyline you could have with having a rookie driver in his first race."
Stewart qualified his Rich McPhillips-timed Mobil 1 A/Fuel Dragster fifth with a 5.285 and won all three of his quads en route to his first victory, and acclimated himself well to the unique format where the first two finishers in each quad advance.
"I thoroughly enjoyed [the four-wide racing]. I'll be honest -- to me, it feels like it kind of brings that short track feel, like the first few rounds it felt like heat races. You don't have to win, you just have to transfer. You just pay attention to what you're doing and you know when you pull in your lane, what lane you're in, you know bulb to look at. I like the four-wide format. I think it's it's exciting for everybody but there's there's a lot of extra people and a lot of stuff going on at the starting line. It's hard not like it when you win, but I think it's a cool deal."
Stewart won his first-round quad with a 5.287 at 273.16 ahead of Summer Richardson, who also advanced. Stewart's other McPhillips Racing teammate, Jasmine Salinas, finished third and Johnny Ahten fourth. Stewart also won his second-round quad with a steady 5.393 at 273.94 mph with Demke finishing second behind him at 5.330. Richardson and Shawn Cowie finished third and fourth and out of competition.
Stewart also has won at all three of the other tracks that make up Las Vegas Motor Speedway, including a NASCAR cup win on the Superspeedway, USAC midget and sprint car victories on The Bull Ring paved oval. and winged midget and Silver Crown titles on the dirt-track oval.
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Photo's: NHRA | Mark Rebilas | TSR Nitro