Wunnerful, Wunnerful: Racer Tony Stewart Won't Say No to Lawrence Welk on Race Day

No heart-throbbing heavy metal, fast-paced rock-n-roll needed to get Stewart's competitive juices going.

acer, auto, autos, car, cars, nhra, wunnerful, wunnerful: racer tony stewart won't say no to lawrence welk on race day
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  • Tony Stewart says he uses different methods to encourage each of his NASCAR Cup drivers.
  • His NHRA drag-racing drivers have wildly different approaches in the moments before they make their runs down the dragstrip.
  • Stewart says he’s excited enough to get in the car and prefers calmer environment.

    The ways race-car drivers prepare for on-track performance is about as varied as methods of decorating a Christmas tree. Just ask Tony Stewart.

    “I have four [NASCAR] Cup drivers. And before the race, I say something different to each of those four drivers, because I know what button to push that’s going to get 100 percent out of them,” the multi-series team owner said.

    But his drag-racing duo of wife Leah Pruett and Matt Hagan definitely have him shifting gears.

    “Leah, her demeanor in the tow vehicle versus Matt are polar opposites from each other,” Stewart said.

    acer, auto, autos, car, cars, nhra, wunnerful, wunnerful: racer tony stewart won't say no to lawrence welk on race day

    Tony Stewart gives a thumbs up to wife Leah Pruett at Las Vegas after a successful Alcohol Fuel Dragster run at the NHRA Nevada Nationals.

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    Before she makes her Top Fuel passes, he said, “Leah’s got music in there, and she’s got music that’s turned up so loud that I can’t even hear myself think. She likes to get all amped up before she runs.”

    Hagan is a Funny Car veteran and three-time series champion, and he’s super-relaxed.

    “So she likes to be amped up, and Matt, you can talk to him,” Stewart said. “He’s putting his stuff on and he’s still in a conversation with you. I’m like, ‘You’re going to go 300 miles an hour and you’re talking about what we’re going to have for dinner tonight and what time our dinner reservations are.’ I’m like, ‘This guy’s not wired right.’

    “It just shows the difference in personalities and mind sets. What each one of ’em does to get ’em in the frame of mind they want to be in when they get in the car is different for every driver,” he said.

    As for himself, Stewart said, “I’d rather have Lawrence Welk playing in the background, almost be comatose, because I don’t need to get excited up. When I get in the car, I’m already getting excited.”

    He doesn’t have a bubble machine in his pit, like Welk had on the set of his big-band variety show in the 1950s and ’60s, but his mental preparation worked for him last weekend at the NHRA Nevada Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He was runner-up to Madison Payne in the Lucas Oil Series’ Top Alcohol Dragster class out of the No. 2 qualifying position in his first-ever drag race.

    Stewart said, “I have more trouble being a spectator than I do driving. I’ve actually been pretty relaxed when I get in the car. When they start the car is probably the calmest I am the entire time. Probably the most anxious I am is when they’re actually buckling me in, because I’m naturally claustrophobic. So having somebody right here in your face and you’re having to suck it in while they get all these belts in and you can’t move is probably the worst part for me.

    “But even the runs in Leah’s car and I’ve warmed up Matt’s car when the motor starts, that’s actually the time that I relax the most and settle in. So I don’t really have a good explanation for that. But I’m glad that it works out that way, because that’s the time when you need to be calm,” he said.

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