Hello NHRA.com readers.
I spent my first off-weekend of 2014 back at a race track, but not an NHRA race track. I headed south to Homestead, Fla., to go to my first NASCAR race with our social media specialist, Leah Vaughn, and Paul Mecca, who handles new business development for DSR. Paul is well-versed in the NASCAR world, so who better to learn the stock car racing ropes from?
We arrived at the track on Saturday afternoon in time to watch the final Sprint Cup series practice. It was eye-opening to see how different the stock cars are compared to what I’m used to with NHRA nitro racing. After watching practice, we got to walk around the garage and mingle. One of the first drivers we ran into was our NAPA Auto Parts teammate Martin Truex, Jr. It was cool to meet Martin and talk auto racing. He and his NAPA team attended their first NHRA last year at the 2012 Charlotte Four-Wide Nationals.
Later, Paul, who worked for NASCAR before coming to work for DSR in 2001, took Leah and me around and introduced us to some big names in NASCAR including Jack Roush and “the King” Richard Petty. Wow, two racing legends and both raced NHRA many years ago. Meeting Richard Petty is like meeting auto racing royalty. What an honor.
After spending time in the garage socializing, we headed down to pit road for all the Nationwide series pre-race festivities. I had to get used to all this new racing terminology, garage and not pits and pit road and not staging lanes. LOL While on pit road, we got to spend some time with the Wallace brothers, Kenny and Mike. No, we didn’t meet Rusty. Kenny was excited to meet the girls behind the @ShoeRacing Twitter account. He told us he loves following our adventures in NHRA-land and is a ball of personality.
We watched the Nationwide race from pit road. It was exciting to see how the teams operate during a race because it is so different from what we see in an NHRA race. My favorite part was watching the teams go to work when their car came in for a pit stop. It’s a much quicker version of our post-run service in the pits.
It was a different type of race day for us on Sunday. We got to the track in time to watch some of the cars go through tech inspection. Following inspection, we got to spend time with NASCAR marketing team members. They explained all the ins and outs of NASCAR marketing. We discussed that Don’s company, Schumacher Electric, is the official battery charger, jump starter and inverter for NASCAR and how they activate the relationship.
The marketing team brought us to NASCAR’s version of hospitality, which was called “the cabana.” It was made to look as though we were in South Beach Miami and was located in the middle of turn one. It was sponsored by Sherwin-Williams and was very unique with the South Beach art deco colors.
After mingling in the cabana, we went down to pit road and watched NASCAR’s driver introductions and pre-race ceremonies before heading up to the Homestead-Miami suite to watch the race. Pre-race at a NASCAR race is very exciting. It’s like a band walking on stage to begin a concert, but unlike NHRA, the stock car racing fans don’t have access to the drivers and cars as they do in our sport.
Meanwhile, back at the shop things are rolling along early this off season. It looks like a few teams will be testing in South Florida next month. I’m told Tony, Antron and TJ will test on Dec. 10-11. The dragsters want to focus on clutch improvements and TJ just got his seat poured and they want to get acclimated to a new driver.
We’ll be decaling the 2014 NAPA Auto Parts, Valvoline Max Life and Rocky Boots Funny Cars in the next few days, so we will have some cool photos to share with you over the next few weeks.
It’s been quiet with our drivers. TJ has been around the shop with his new team. Antron is racing RC boats in Louisiana and Matt has been sporting his Rocky Boots and doing some hunting near his home in Virginia.
If anything exciting breaks, I’ll be sure to check in (plus you can follow me on Twitter, @MeganFessSchu), but if not, please have a safe, happy and filling Thanksgiving holiday and weekend.
All the best.
Hello again NHRA fans. It was a busy weekend at Pomona for the final race of the 2013 NHRA season that culminated with the annual NHRA award’s ceremony in Century City on Monday evening. We flew home yesterday and it’s back to the grind of school today. So yes, I’m a bit jet-lagged and needing a day or two to catch-up.
It was an interesting weekend at Pomona. There wasn’t a lot of championship drama as the Funny Car (John Force) and Pro Stock Motorcycle (Matt Smith) winners were crowned at Las Vegas two weeks ago and the Top Fuel (Shawn Langdon) and Pro Stock (Jeg Coughlin) points-leaders entering Pomona with almost insurmountable leads. Shawn clinched the TF title after Q4 on Saturday and Jeg after E2 on Sunday. Congrats to all four 2013 NHRA Mello Yello champions.
That left the only drag racing theatre as to who would capture the coveted Wally trophies from the Auto Club Finals. Our dragsters all bowed out early, but we had an exciting and moving – yes, I know, sappy – development in Funny Car with Matt Hagan’s Mopar/Rocky Boots team. Matt’s crew chief, Dickie Venables, was in the hospital after undergoing a medical procedure earlier in the week. That meant assistant crew chief Mike Knudsen, a longtime DSR employee, was calling the shots on the Mopar Dodge at Pomona, with the watchful eyes of Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler to offer advice.
Mike and the entire Mopar team did such a fantastic job all weekend. The team made eight solid runs between 4.12 and 4.01, including running 4.014 to qualify second and a 4.018-second blast in the final round as Matt scored his category-best fifth win of 2013 to defeat John Force in the final round. It was DSR’s 23rd win of the season besting our 22 from last year. We’re now at 219 wins entering the 2014 NHRA season. Congrats to Matt, Mike and the entire Mopar team on a fantastic weekend at Pomona. We know Dickie is very proud of them and we can’t wait to welcome Dickie back to the shop and to testing in January.
Speaking of pre-season testing; mark it on your January ’14 calendar all you nitro maniacs. Our seven DSR teams, along with many on the NHRA tour, will test Jan. 15-18 at Palm Beach International Raceway. The PRO Winter Warm-up will be Jan. 17-18 and open to the public.
Some of our teams are back at the shop and some will return later tonight to gear up for what most call our off-season or as some in our front office refer to it as our “on season.” There really is no off season for a team as large as DSR. We’ll be back at Pomona in some 80-plus days and our teams have to build new chassis, mount Funny Car bodies, paint and decal dragster and Funny Cars, strip and re-wrap trailers, order new race and hospitality awnings, order new crew shirts and fire suit, hold 2014 photo shoots at our shop in early December, along with freshening up all the race car parts for testing and the ’14 Winternationals. Needless to say, our guys will keep very busy this winter before they head south to Florida on January 12 or 13. That’s less than two months away.
I spoke to our shop manager Joey Martin and he said that our fab shop will do five front halves this off season. That means new pipe on a dragster or FC chassis from the driver compartment forward. They also will continue with R&D projects and mounting Funny Car bodies. The machine shop is cranking away on cylinder heads and connecting rods like Santa’s elves this time of year.
We got our first ‘14 NAPA Auto Parts Funny Car body back from paint recently and it will be assembled and decaled for a Dec. 3 photo shoot at our shop. Here’s a sneak peak at Ron Capps’ 2014 ride. It’s very similar with a few subtle changes.
That’s it from DSR-land for now, but I’m excited to keep you all posted on the on-goings in Brownsburg all winter long. This weekend I’m joining Paul Mecca, who handles new business development for DSR, and Leah Vaughn, our social media specialist, in Homestead, Fla. for the final NASCAR race. It’s my first NASCAR race and I’m eager to take in another form of motor sports and network and mingle.
I’ll check in next week with my NASCAR experience and updates from the shop. Have a great week and weekend.
Hello again. I hope all is well with you loyal NHRA fans. Can you believe there’s just one race left in the 2013 NHRA season? What a whirlwind, drama-filled year it’s been and before you know it, it will be early February and we’ll be back at Pomona for the start of the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello season. Do you know the 2014 Winternationals begins just four days after the Super Bowl?
The Las Vegas race didn’t go as expected for Team DSR as our two highest ranking teams, Spencer Massey and Matt Hagan both bowed out in the opening round last Sunday at LVMS. Congratulations to John Force and the entire JFR operation on earning his amazing 16th championship. It’s really a mind-boggling number. Most consider Bill Russell the winningest athlete with 11 titles, so 16 is just remarkable. John, Jimmy Prock and their entire team did a fantastic job in the Countdown and the title is well-deserved. It only motivates our teams to work even harder this off-season to come out hard after another championship.
The Countdown has been humbling to say the least for our DSR teams. After dominating the regular season with 19 wins, it’s been a tough go-round at the last five events. Antron’s Matco Tools team scored our second Countdown win and the second win in three races for the Matco boys. It was great to see the pink Matco Tools for the Cause dragster in the winner’s circle at LVMS. It also was a milestone win for AB, who scored his 25th career Top Fuel win. The win kept AB in title contention as they aim to keep the No. 1 on the side of that Matco dragster in 2014. It’s a longshot, but better than no shot and like Journey sang, "Don’t Stop Believin’."
In my world, I’ve started three new courses in grad school at Lynn University. I have two classes in marketing and one in finance. I’m excited as I think all three will apply to my future employment at DSR. It’s so exciting for me to get involved in the day-to-day operations of the team. I have a conference call with the front office today about Tommy Johnson’s program with Gray Motorsports next year and it’s very exciting for me to learn and start getting my feet wet.
It was an exciting weekend at Vegas for Tommy Johnson Jr., that’s for sure. He was beaming like a kid on Christmas all weekend long. He got the news that he would be named the driver of the Gray Motorsports flopper for DSR on Saturday afternoon and we announced T.J. as the driver of the soon to be vacated Johnny Gray seat on Sunday morning. T.J. is a great guy and fits in so well with the culture at DSR. He knows most of our team and is a perfect fit to hop into Johnny’s ride and not miss a beat. I’m fortunate to be able to work alongside T.J. and Terry Chandler, Johnny’ sister, and we will have some exciting announcements in the future.
The DSR teams kept busy on Monday at The Strip at LVMS at the Monday Nationals. Four of our teams tested with TJ driving the Army dragster, along with the NAPA Auto Parts, Pitch Energy and Mopar Funny Cars all making laps.
While I’m working away at school, the DSR front office, fab and machine shops are keeping plenty busy. The fab shop is working on new Funny Car chassis for 2014, while the machine shop cranks out cylinder heads, connecting rods and a plethora of other parts we produce in house. The front office is working like busy bees on 2014 also. We already had a photo shoot for Tony and the U.S. Army and we’ll do our second round of photo shoots in Brownsburg the week of Dec. 2 starting with the NAPA team and Ron Capps. We decaled up the first Matco Tools dragster. We like Antron’s new look and hope you do too. Here’s a sneak peek for you viewing pleasure.
AB’s co-crew chief Mark Oswald is joining Tom Patsis from our fab shop in Homestead, Fla. as part of the Army’s Ten80 program today. Mark is a super-sharp dude and Tom is a master fabricator, so they’ll be a great addition to the STEM program. Tom has a side business called Cold Hard Art. Give him a quick Google search and check out his amazing art. As for Mark, today is his birthday, so happy birthday “Iceman.”
Most of our race crews have the week off. After testing or servicing the race cars at Las Vegas, the guys flew home, for most of them Indy, and for a few, other parts of the country, for a little R&R before Pomona and the off-season, which really is the on-season. The guys will fly back into Las Vegas next Tuesday morning and drive on over to Pomona. It’s just a quick four-hour drive down I-15 South before heading West on I-10.
I’m off to Dallas for the weekend for my friend Katie’s wedding. I hope you all have a great weekend and we’ll check in after the season ends at Pomona.
All the best.
Hello everyone. My name is Megan Schumacher and I’m thrilled to be joining the team of NHRA.com bloggers. My goals with this blog are to be regular, at least when it comes to updating the blog, and to offer a continual, behind the scenes look at DSR, the largest team in NHRA racing.
When I say behind the scenes, I mean more than just what happens at the race track. You guys know what happens at each of the 24 NHRA Mello Yello Series races. You watch the NHRA on ESPN2 and ESPN3 on your computers. You follow along at NHRA.com and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I’m going to do my best to take you inside DSR. Hopefully offer a look at what’s it’s like to work at DSR; the fun, the highs and lows, and maybe even a little Kardashian-style drama. A DSR reality show? Now that could be some entertaining TV with our personalities and I’m not even talking about Tony or Antron or Ron or Matt. We have some real characters that help make our operation the success that it is, whether on the race track or in the pits in our hospitality area.
Before I dive into DSR, a little bit about myself. Some of you may know me as Don’s daughter and Tony’s step-sister. I’m 22 years-old and graduated from Lynn University in Florida this May. In fact, my graduation weekend was the Atlanta rain date weekend on May 4. Johnny and Antron doubled-up for the ultimate graduation gift, two Wally trophies! I began grad school in late August before the U.S. Nationals. Once I finished my master’s program, the plan is for me to relocate to Indy and work out of the DSR shop and fully immerse myself in the daily operation of DSR and NHRA racing, the sport I love. I lived in Chicago for many years, so I’ll be just fine with the Indiana winters. One last thing, I have a dog named Teddy, so you’ll get to meet him along the way as you have with Bob Wilber’s cats.
Last weekend I took full advantage of our first off weekend in four weeks and took a trip to Madison, Wisconsin to spend the weekend with one of my best friends, Taylor. She attends the University of Wisconsin, so we got to attend the Wisconsin vs. Northwestern homecoming football game a Camp Randall Stadium. The Badgers are my adopted team and they had a huge win over the ranked Wildcats. It’s such a great experience to attend a college football game in the fall with the leaves changing colors and we got to top off the big UW win of with some fun on State Street.
This has been an important week at college. We’ve had our first round of final exams. Thankfully, one was a take-home exam, so there’s no excuse to not get a solid grade. Lynn is on the quarter system, so I begin a new set of classes on Monday. It's a fast-paced program but keeps things busy and exciting. Much like DSR, it’s never dull.
After two off weekends, we’ll be Jonesing to get back to the race track next weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. We start the Countdown with so much momentum with four consecutive races and the two off weeks create a lull although the crew members and their families enjoy the time at home. Our teams will leave the shop on Monday and Tuesday. It’s about a 28-hour drive from Brownsburg to Las Vegas in a big truck. In the meantime, the teams have kept plenty busy taking advantage of the time at home.
Things are always humming along in the fabrication and CNC/machine shops at DSR home base in Brownsburg. The fab shop did a front half on Antron’s Matco dragster, so the Matco team will have new pipe going into Las Vegas. The fab shop guys also have front half tubing ready for dragsters and Funny Cars in the off season. They do a great job of working ahead because the off season isn’t really an off season at all. It’s always on season at the shop. They also built new headers for our teams and got the titanium trees ready to mount two new Funny Car bodies. Our fab shop is led by Joey Martin and includes Joe, Tom, Dan and Hank.
Last Thursday, we did a 2014 photo shoot with Tony and the U.S. Army dragster. The Army always does an October shoot for the next season’s marketing materials and hero cards. We recently got the first ’14 Matco dragster back from paint at SD Enterprises in Michigan and Antron’s car will have a much different look next year and I think you’ll really like it. I’ll try to share a sneak peek real soon. Next Tuesday we will get a NAPA Auto Parts Funny Car body back from paint and we’ll send the first Valvoline car to paint. Jack’s Dodge flopper also will have a new look for 2014. It’s a very exciting time to be part of an NHRA team and I’m thrilled to offer you a behind the scenes look at DSR.
For those of you coming to Las Vegas, you can see Antron at the Toyota NHRA Nationals Fan Fest on Freemont Street at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday and meet Don and the rest of the DSR drivers at the New York New York Hotel & Casino from 6-8 p.m. We have a great relationship with New York New York and we’re excited to return. The MGM properties are always fantastic and have great entertainment and dining options.
Thanks for reading my first NHRA.com blog entry. If you’ll be at Las Vegas next weekend, please come say hello. Take care and feel free to follow my travels on Twitter @MeganFessSchu.