Plenty of Reasons Not to Feel Sorry for Don Schumacher

·6 min read
Photo credit: Richard H Shute
Photo credit: Richard H Shute
  • Don Schumacher's one-car team in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series isn’t all DSR has going for it this season.

  • Team just announced the addition of Warren Walcher as its third Factory Stock Showdown entrant.

  • Schumacher “always working on additional things” but won’t expand with a part-time team.

  • Motorsport mogul hints he’ll ease off the gas a little in managing the business.

Even as Funny Car Ron Capps was finalizing plans last fall to leave Don Schumacher Racing and establish his independent team through NAPA sponsorship, he said with a twinkle in his eye, “Don’t feel sorry for Don. He’s going to be OK.”

And indeed, he is, despite the mass migration and sponsorship struggles that have reduced his team in the past two seasons from seven drivers to just one. That gnawed at the owner of the largest organization in the NHRA, especially at the Finals last November.

He has accepted the reality of it, saying, “Things transpired that– it is what it is.” And he conceded that the departure of all four of his 2021 drivers (Antron Brown and Capps to their own teams and Leah Pruett and Matt Hagan to the newly formed Tony Stewart Racing team) took an emotional toll on him.

Photo credit: Richard H Shute
Photo credit: Richard H Shute

“At Pomona last year, it was great winning the Funny Car championship (with Capps). But the other things at that race created a finality for me, which certainly affected my emotions, and I'll leave it at that,” Schumacher said. “I've got the winningest organization in the history of the sport, and we'll go from there.”

Back in a fulltime capacity for the first time since 2018, his eight-time Top Fuel-champion son Tony Schumacher will be DSR’s lone pro-level car, thanks to funding from philanthropist couple Joe and Cathi Maynard and Scag Power Equipment.

But Don Schumacher is quick to remind that he has three other drivers to help increase his hardware haul from 366 victories and 16 championships.

“I mean, I got three Factory Shootout cars that I'm running,” he said, implying his isn’t a single-car outfit.

Mark Pawuk, the six-time NHRA Pro Stock winner between 1985-2006 who joined DSR in 2018, and David Davies, a six-time Modern Street Hemi Shootout winner who came on board last August, return for the Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown’s eight-race schedule.

Replacing Pruett in the third Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak, DSR announced Monday, will be longtime Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series competitor and off-road racer Warren Walcher, of Grand Junction, Colo.

Photo credit: NHRA/National Dragster
Photo credit: NHRA/National Dragster

So when it appears at first glance (with the new teams of Top Fuel’s Antron Brown and Funny Car’s Ron Capps) that single-car teams (à la four-time Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence) might be the new trend in drag racing, Don Schumacher said otherwise.

“No, I don't feel that is ultimately the trend in the direction the sport will go. I believe the multi-car teams with the current owners and the new owners will be ultimately the way the sport progresses and goes forward,” Schumacher said.

It’s unclear whether the 77-year-old plans to build his operation back to the powerhouse it was when it swept every Funny Car victory in 2021. He did say he’s “always working on additional things.”

He isn’t on the verge of announcing any Funny Car replacements for Capps and Hagan.

“I have some opportunities there but nothing that allows me to look at a full season. I choose not to think about putting together a partial season on any fuel car. It's a very difficult way to compete at the highest level if you only run part of the season. If I'm going to run a team, that's going to be for the whole season or I choose not to do it any other way,” Schumacher said.

“I will do what's right for my family, myself, my employees, and the sport,” he said. “But at my age, I have decided to not be as intimately involved in any business as I was in the past. And when it gets to the point that that isn't what I choose to do, then I'll turn the reins over to Megan (his daughter, who has served as vice-president of the company), and we will go from there.”

As one would expect from a member of both the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, Schumacher said he bases his decision on his ability to win series titles: “That's the only reason I've ever raced, is to win races and win championships. That's the only reason I will be out there at Pomona and the future.”

One thing Schumacher has pledged to do is help other teams. Brown, Capps, and Funny Car owner-drivers Bob Tasca and Paul Lee are renting space from DSR. And DSR has many parts-and-pieces clients, including Torrence and Funny Car veteran Cruz Pedregon. Besides that, Schumacher graciously has volunteered to lend a hand to those who have departed from his program.

Photo credit: Icon Sportswire - Getty Images
Photo credit: Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

“I’ve accomplished a lot of things in my life, and I'm more than willing to help people and teams accomplish what their goals are,” Schumacher said. “I'm there for all of the teams that have started out on their own—Antron and Ron Capps, and I'm there to assist Tony Stewart in any way. He's got a great organization. I'll assist any and all of them and the sport any way I reasonably can.”

If the race teams themselves were all Don Schumacher had, he might be dealing with a different scenario. But that isn’t the case. His DSM Precision Manufacturing operation, which son-in-law Chad Osier oversees, is diversified and growing.

The state-of-the-art machining operation inside his 150,000-square-foot race shop at Brownsburg, Ind., has strategic partnerships with a robust blend of industries (aviation, aerospace, automotive, defense, and sport fishing). That made this addition to his portfolio a bit of a lifesaver amid the race-team shake-up and the challenging economy.

“It was a necessity with the sport cutting back in 2020 with the number of races, and even only 20 races in 2021. We had to broaden our spectrum of business. It couldn't just be a machine shop for race parts. So we had to expand our vision there,” Schumacher said. “And we've gotten into a lot of other areas of manufacturing that is really the right thing for that machine shop to do.

“Ultimately, when I moved in and opened the building in Brownsburg and started to expand the machine shop, my desire was to have a machine shop that took care of a lot of outside business, and there was just a little corner of it that took care of racing parts and pieces. So we'll see if that dream that I had when I put together the machine shop in the first place, we'll see if that can come to be in the next few years,” he said.

“That is going just great. We continue to expand in that area and bring in more machines and bring in more people and such,” he said. “It’s a very vibrant part of my operation.”

So Ron Capps knows what he’s talking about. Don’t feel sorry for Don Schumacher. Schumacher isn’t.