The unveiling of racing legend Tony Stewart’s newly designed 2021 Supra SA550 boat on Sunday brought out auto racing fans from near and far toting all kinds of memorabilia in hopes of obtaining autographs from the retired IndyCar and NASCAR driver/current team owner.
A line of fans snaked around the inside of the Pro Wake Watersports showroom, at 146th Street and Indiana 37, in Noblesville, as fans watched and waited to meet their all-American auto-racing hero, nicknamed Smoke, who never ceases to be honest and real with his fans as well as reporters.
“I’m super excited that you guys are here to unveil it with us,” Stewart told fans as he prepared to see for the first time his newly designed wake surf boat, a more than $150,000 luxury, high-performance tow boat built for surf and wakeboard sessions.
It’s a hobby that the 49-year-old has taken up since dating girlfriend NHRA Top Fuel drag racer Leah Pruett, 32, who has been perfecting the water sport for the past five years.
“I look like an elephant on a tricycle in the water, but I’m learning and getting better,” Stewart said, smiling, as he candidly admitted to fans about his surfing.
The current racing team owner and retired IndyCar and NASCAR driver -- the only driver in history to win a championship in both IndyCar and NASCAR -- Stewart appeared with Pruett, who a day earlier, on Saturday, unveiled her own bright blue 2021 Supra SL660 at Pro Wake Watersports in North Webster.
“I think we’re both going to be sad when we have to turn these boats in, but the cool thing is anybody can buy our boats when we have to turn these back in,” Stewart said before unveiling his manly wine-colored dream boat.
Designing and unveiling their two boats was a promotional partnership with Pro Wake Watersports, owned by Mark Richards, who was there making announcements and keeping the event running smoothly.
“The objective is for him (Stewart) to be able to use his boat for this boating season ... At the end of that season, his boat becomes available for sale to somebody; somebody out there can purchase his boat.” Richards calls it a “demo promotional program.” He said it is Stewart’s “first real boat.”
They created two boats because her home is in Arizona, and they’ll use her boat on Lake Havasu; and his home is in Columbus, Ind., and will use his boat on Lake Monroe.
While there were some customers in attendance, the event was mostly about the fans seeing Stewart and Pruett. “Especially this past year, events are limited, and people are dying to see races,” said Richards of the meet-and-greet event that served free wine to ages 21 and older and free Samano’s Mexican Food (of Noblesville) from a food truck in the back showroom.
Stewart talked about learning to wake surf. “When we got together this year and quarantined together in Arizona, her passion is being on that lake. To be there and learn, she taught me how to surf. It takes a while to get good at it. (Though he said) the third time that she pulled me, I was up and riding on the board and holding onto the rope.”``
While racing cars at more than 200 mph, Stewart said the boats are driven at only 10-11 mph. It’s all the faster you go to wake surf, it’s not about the speed, he said. “The great thing is learning to do something that gets us away from the racing and lets us hit a reset button. That was probably the best part of learning the boating lifestyle from her. I had a houseboat that I lived on in Charlotte (N.C), but to do the wake surfing is something I really enjoy with her. The hard part is that I’m not as good as her. And I’m very competitive. I don’t like not being as good as her. And I’m probably never going to be as good as her. But it’s something that we love to be together.”
Stewart also loves getting out and meeting fans. While he has some friends in Noblesville, he said, “I love all of Indiana. I have connections to all of Indiana in some way, shape or fashion.”
Stewart and Pruett have been dating since last spring. He said most fans don’t ask them personal questions but rather ask racing questions, “Because that’s the capacity they know us in.”
What’s next? Stewart said, “We’re going out to Havisu until next Sunday, and then we go down to Florida for almost a month, all for her stuff. She has preseason testing with both of the cars that she drives; she drives a factory stock car and the Top Fuel Car. I'll be down there with her the whole time while she’s testing. I don’t have any races until April now. So I get to hang out with her and watch her do what she does.” He expects to get his new boat out for the first time when they get back from the Florida trip.
Stefany Robles of Fishers attended the unveiling with her family and to see Stewart. “It’s very excited to see him join the Pro Wake family and the boating world. Racing and boating are similar,” said the wife and mom, whose family owns a boat and has kids, ages 15, 9 and 6, who “love the wake surfing.”
Aaron Colburn said his Morse Lake family from Noblesville came to see the boats and interact with people there. Colburn was there with wife, Katey, and son Eugene. They bought a Supra at the shop in 2020 and do wake surfing.
“Coming down here… it is neat that both of them came and built Supras; the unveiling is pretty neat,” Colburn said. Their son has been following Stewart and Pruett’s “Journey” on YouTube.
Noblesville native Randy Burrow wasn’t in the fan line but rather standing to one side, watching Stewart sign autographs and greet fans. “I know Tony and used to race with him before he was famous. He’s in my neighborhood, so I thought I’d stop by and poke him in the eye.”
Burrow said, “I haven’t caught his attention yet. But I will. He’s busy signing autographs ... I got to leave him alone while these fans are all collected around here.”
Pro Wake’s sports spring boat show continues through Sunday. For store hours or more about the racers’ designed boats or to watch the videos, visit https://www.prowakewatersports.com/

-Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com