Renowned NHRA team owner Don Schumacher dies at age 79

By | December 21, 2023

Don Schumacher Racing has announced the death of its founder, motorsport icon Don Schumacher. The NHRA team owner and Funny Car pioneer had privately battled lung cancer in recent months before succumbing to disease-related complications on Wednesday, December 20. He was 79.

Schumacher leaves a lasting legacy not only to the NHRA community, where he etched his name as one of the sport’s most successful team owners and champion for advancing safety innovation, but to the motorsports community as a whole. Schumacher’s contributions to the auto racing industry extend far beyond drag racing and are widely recognized. In November 2022, Schumacher was honored at the NHRA Awards Ceremony, where he received the NHRA’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2019, he was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in Daytona Beach, Florida, and in May 2013, he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, Alabama. He also joined a prestigious list of straight-line racing legends when he was invited to the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2007.

Schumacher was a fierce Funny Car match racer in the 1960s and 1970s who made multiple entries with top drivers to meet the demand for bookings of his Stardust Funny Cars. Schumacher said goodbye to motorsport in the early 1970s to grow the Schumacher family business. Electric. While operating Schumacher Electric, he grew the family business into a global company. Schumacher increased the company’s value more than tenfold and employed thousands of people around the world. He was known as a fierce and compassionate leader to all who worked with him.

In 1998, he returned to NHRA Drag Racing to build a team with son Tony Schumacher. Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) made its competitive debut at the 1998 US Nationals in Indianapolis, and by the time the 1999 season was over, DSR had captured its first of many championship titles. Soon after, the one-car team exploded into a multi-car powerhouse.

As patriarch of DSR, Schumacher was a force to be reckoned with. More than 25 drivers have raced for the legendary team owner. He created champions, introduced new personalities to the sport and was responsible for the revival of several careers. Schumacher is the only team owner to have victories in each of the NHRA’s four professional categories. He was also successful in the Factory Stock Showdown Series, winning the 2018 title in just his second year campaigning cars in the category.

His teams have collected 19 NHRA world championships and 367 Wally trophies, including the five he won while behind the wheel of a Funny Car. During his driving career, he contributed groundbreaking safety innovations to the new Funny Car category, including a roof-mounted escape hatch that allowed drivers to quickly get out when fires broke out all too often. He was also the first to install the lever that activated a fire suppression system on the brake lever of his Funny Car, allowing the driver to operate both while keeping one hand on the wheel.

As a team owner, he funded and led a project to develop a protective, enclosed canopy for Top Fuel dragsters, which has since been adopted by multiple NHRA teams. Schumacher also planned to use his team’s fleet of racing cars to raise money and awareness for various charities. Each year prior to the US Nationals, DSR hosts a pre-race event at its headquarters in Brownsburg, Ind., to benefit the Riley Hospital for Children, and for seven seasons Schumacher, along with Terry and Doug Chandler, campaigned for ‘ giving cars’. The program allowed nonprofits such as the Infinite Hero Foundation, Make-A-Wish Foundation and MD Anderson Cancer Center to be recognized through a special tribute at no cost to the organization. The impact Schumacher had both on and off the track is undeniable.

In more recent years, Schumacher turned his focus to growing Don Schumacher Motorsports, better known as DSM Precision Manufacturing and DSR Performance. DSR Performance is considered one of the leading brands in racing technology and aftermarket parts in the sport. DSM Precision Manufacturing is a successful supplier of precision manufacturing for the motorsport, defense and aerospace industries. These entities will continue to honor Schumacher’s business legacy.

When Schumacher was not at a race track or leading his teams of employees, he enjoyed spending time with his children, grandchildren, fishing and golfing.

Arrangements, including a celebration of life, will be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made to MD Anderson Cancer Center.

-Courtesy of Don Schumacher Racing

The story originally appeared on Racer

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