Don Schumacher Racing has expanded the team’s ongoing partnership with Okuma, a leading machine tool manufacturer, to include a primary sponsorship of Leah Pritchett’s Top Fuel dragster at three NHRA events in 2019, and associate support of Tommy Johnson Jr.’s Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car.
Pritchett will banner the Okuma brand at the Route 66 NHRA Nationals in Joliet, Ill., the NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway, and at the NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway during the NHRA Countdown to the Championship. Johnson’s Hellcat will feature the Okuma logo at all remaining 2019 NHRA events beginning with this weekend’s NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway near Okuma’s North America headquarters in Charlotte, N.C.
“Our relationship with Okuma dates back to 2014,” said Don Schumacher, owner of Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) and Don Schumacher Motorsports (DSM). “We were looking to expand our machine shop’s capabilities and wanted to be able to bring high-precision jobs in-house at Don Schumacher Motorsports. We were looking for equipment that could satisfy that need and we found Okuma to be the best choice. Since that time, we’ve grown to utilizing 15 machines and are thrilled that the partnership has expanded into a branding opportunity that fans can see on the race track.”
DSM, the production arm of DSR, is a leading parts supplier in the NHRA Drag Racing industry, offering a wide range of products including cylinder heads and engine blocks to many teams competing on the NHRA circuit. Currently, DSM produces approximately 8,000 parts a year from its catalog of more than 300 different parts. DSM’s Senior Manufacturing Engineer Scott Cutler attributes Okuma’s accuracy, reliability, rigidity, and speed for being able to produce high-quality parts in such large volumes.
Recently, the partnership has led to the development of the DSM Nitro Block which made its debut as a prototype in Antron Brown’s Top Fuel dragster in late 2018. Pritchett ran the first official production block at the 2019 NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas with tremendous results and has continued to utilize the block in her 11,000-horsepower machine. The block was machined in DSM’s Okuma MA-600 at DSR’s Brownsburg, Ind. facility.
“It’s always a thrill to fly the flag of a partner that is more than skin-deep and see performance results happen with such internal involvement by them,” said Pritchett, a seven-time Top Fuel winner. “DSM has been hard at work manufacturing thousands of our own parts, including our newest, yet largest project, our own short blocks. We unloaded with a 3.745-second pass right out of the trailer when we debuted this new block. Okuma has proven to be outstanding in our CNC quest, and I am beyond proud to race in this car with such efficient parts armed by their machining powerhouse.”
“After five years of working together to create an optimized machine shop environment at DSR’s Indiana facility, we at Okuma are very excited to formalize our relationship to now include a cooperative branding partnership,” said Tim Thiessen, Okuma Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “Many of our customers are NHRA fans and we look forward to being able to offer them a closer look at NHRA Drag Racing through our partnership with DSR."
The Pritchett-piloted Okuma Top Fuel Dragster will take to the track for the first time at the Route 66 NHRA Nationals in Joliet, Ill., May 31 – June 2. Johnson’s large-scale Okuma graphics adorned his Dodge Hellcat Funny Car for the first time at this weekend’s NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway.