Drag racing legend Don Schumacher dead from lung cancer

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Drag racing legend Don Schumacher died last week after a battle with lung cancer.

Schumacher wore plenty of hats during his drag racing career, which began with his match races in Funny Cars in the 1960s, most notably driving his Stardust Dodge Funny Car, which became so popular he had more than one Stardust car traveling the drag racing circuits with hired drivers.

1969 NHRA Winternationals Pomona CA
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1973 NHRA Winternationals Drag Race
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In 1974, Schumacher walked away from drag racing to devote time to the family business, Schumacher Electric, founded in 1947 and known primarily for its line of battery chargers. Schumacher grew the company considerably, adding plants in China, Mexico, and Belgium.

Schumacher returned to drag racing in 1998 to build a team for his son Tony. Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) made its competition debut at the 1998 U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, “and by the time the 1999 season had wrapped, DSR had clinched its first of many championship titles. Soon after, the single-car team exploded into a multicar powerhouse,” according to the NHRA’s National Dragster. At one time, DSR fielded seven cars in a single season. He is the only owner to have victories in all four NHRA pro drag racing classes, with championships in three of them.

2010 Don Schumacher during Saturday qualifying rounds
Tony Schumacher during Saturday qualifying rounds for the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, 2010. David Griffin/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

DSR has won 19 NHRA world championship titles and a record 367 Wallys—that’s the trophy for a race event win, named for NHRA founder Wally Parks—including the five Don won while behind the wheel of his Funny Car.

Schumacher contributed safety innovations to drag racing, including the Top Fuel dragster canopy, the roof-mounted escape hatch that allowed Funny Car drivers to quickly exit the car in the event of a fire, and he was the first to mount the lever that activated a fire suppression system on his Funny Car’s brake handle, so the driver could apply both while keeping one hand on the steering wheel.

Antron Brown (1 TF) Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) NHRA Top Fuel Dragster
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Schumacher earned many accolades; in 2022, he was honored at the NHRA Awards Ceremony, where he was presented with 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 the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2007.

Schumacher used his team’s fleet of race cars to raise money and awareness for various charities. Each year ahead of the U.S. Nationals, DSR hosts a pre-race event at its Brownsburg, Indiana, headquarters to benefit Riley Hospital for Children, and for seven seasons, Schumacher, along with Terry and Doug Chandler, campaigned cars that enabled nonprofits, such as the Infinite Hero Foundation, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and MD Anderson Cancer Center, to be recognized through a dedicated tribute livery at no cost to the organization.

Team owner Don Schumacher is seen during the 18th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals on Sunday, April 2
Sam Morris/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

In addition to Schumacher Electric, he owned DSR Performance, which sells many products for motorsports ranging from hats and tee shirts to a 1300-horsepower, supercharged 426 cubic-inch crate engine.

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

Don Schumacher was 79.




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    Rest in peace, Don. And thanks for all you did for the sport and all of the great performances you put on (several of which I was lucky enough to witness). You will be remembered as one of the all-time greats!

    At the time of his death, Schumacher resided in Jupiter, Florida. His DSR Performance business is located in Brownsburg, Indiana.

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