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Stewart ‘Proud’ Of His Wife As She Navigates Struggles Away From The NHRA

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Leah Pruett Struggling Away From NHRA Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

When a person devotes 27 years of their life to something it becomes a part of them, and taking a step back from it is never easy as NHRA competitor Leah Pruett is discovering this year.

The 35-year-old Pruett started in Junior Dragsters at age 8 and she’s spent her life climbing the drag racing ladder, often thrashing to find sponsors to keep her career afloat. She has recorded 18 career victories – 12 in Top Fuel and three each in Pro Mod and Factory Stock Showdown. Last year, she finished a career high third in the Top Fuel standings. During the 2023 season she recorded two victories, and four runner-up finishes.

Then she and husband Tony Stewart decided to start a family and that meant stepping out of the car and turning it over to Stewart, who has championships in every form of racing in which he has competed. It’s not been an easy move for Pruett, according to Stewart.

“The first two events were a little rough,” Stewart said during the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway. “Gainesville was bad. It was bad for her, which means it was also bad for me, but we all expected it.”

Stewart said he and the crew knew they needed to be careful about their conversations and their excitement going into the season opening event at Gainesville, Fla.

“We knew she was going to struggle,” Stewart said. “We’ve talked about it a bunch of times, but to make the decision she had to make first of all, and to execute and do what she’s doing is super hard. I’m glad I’m a male race car driver. The female race car drivers are way tougher than all of us men because to have to take yourself out of a car to have a baby …. to sit there and do what you love doing and have your career best finishing points last year and then make a decision you want to start a family. There’s a lot that goes into that from the female side.

“I was proud of my wife when I met her. I was proud of her while we were engaged and I’m proud of her as her husband. This year, I’m even more proud of her than I’ve ever been because I’m watching her go through this. She has a million excuses to be off center every day and be frustrated and mad, and she’s been amazing through it.”

Pruett, who plans to return to Top Fuel racing as soon as she can, suffers from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disorder that prevents her thyroid from producing enough hormones. When the couple began their journey to become parents, Pruett was unsure how her condition would affect her attempt to get pregnant. Last year, she told The Associated Press Hashimoto’s gave her numerous challenges throughout the year in racing and it took a lot to get it under control so she could race.

Stewart said watching what Pruett deals with on a daily basis makes him think about things that bother him in their personal and racing life.

“She’s got it way worse than me and handling it way better,” Stewart said. “It’s making me look at things differently and make my life better because of what she’s doing.”