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NHRA community reacts to passing of Don Schumacher

The NHRA community shares its thoughts, remembrances, and tributes on the passing of drag racing icon Don Schumacher.
21 Dec 2023
Posted by NHRA.com staff
Don Schumacher

The NHRA community shares its thoughts, remembrances, and tributes on the passing of drag racing icon Don Schumacher.

NHRA President Glen Cromwell: “We are deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Don Schumacher, a truly legendary name in NHRA Drag Racing and motorsports. As both a driver and celebrated championship-winning team owner, Don was passionate about racing and driven to succeed, committed to safety on the track, and a remarkable person whose influence on the sport will be felt forever. He leaves behind an incredible legacy, and we offer our heartfelt condolences to his friends, family, and everyone at Don Schumacher Racing.”

John Force: “I just talked to Don the other day. His son, Tony, told me he wasn’t doing so good. I know he had his family with him, his daughter. I asked him if he wanted to go fishing, and he laughed, he always used to ask me to go. Don told me, he told me he was going to beat it. He’s used to winning. He definitely fought. I told him I loved him, and he laughed. We had a love-hate relationship, but there was always respect. I remember him in the early days, knew him as a kid out of Chicago driving the Wonder Wagon Funny Car. That’s still how I see him. He was a great racer and one of the greatest team owners. He helped keep this sport alive, all the jobs he created, the drivers he helped. He’s going to be missed. I really wish I had gone fishing with him.”

Ron Capps: “Driving for Don for 17 years I learned right away that he’s not only competitive in the boardroom, as was evident in how successful he was in business, but on the racetrack as well. As a kid growing up, it was clear that the history of NHRA and the history of drag racing is definitely sprinkled with a lot of Don Schumacher. He was such a fierce competitor, whether it was fishing, on the golf course, or in business, and he was especially competitive on the racetrack.” 

Don Prudhomme: “I’ve known Don since the early 1970s when we were both racing out of Ed Pink’s garage in Southern California. He did a lot for the sport. He funded a good part of it there for a while. He was a serious businessman and a serious racer. That's hard to beat. He's going to be missed."

Antron Brown: “The drag racing world lost a great one last night. I’m so thankful that Don took a chance on me and believed in me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without all his support. He had such an incredible impact on our sport, and for that, I’ll be forever grateful.”

Leah Pruett: "It is undeniable the positive impact Don Schumacher has had on my life. He gave me my first professional racing opportunity and enabled me to flourish in the sport. I am forever thankful for his passion for racing, and his compassion for his friends."

Matt Hagan “The sport lost a legend today. One that I had the luxury to work with for the majority of my career. Driver, team owner, teacher, father, business owner. This man wore the hat for whatever he needed to be in the moment. I’m a better man for having known him. The sport was built on the backs of these men. We owe a great debt to the paths they paved.”

Jack Beckman: "I went to my first drag race in 1973, and you can argue that Don Schumacher was the man in Funny Car when I got exposed to the sport, so my impression of Don Schumacher stuck from there, even when he retired, he was still Don Schumacher, and then I get a chance to drive for him. One of my greatest accomplishments in drag racing was when Don got accepted to the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, he called me and asked me to induct him. I just thought that was the coolest thing ever that my boss would ask that. Make no mistake, Don was a tough boss and expected success from you, but he gave you everything to win. If you wanted kinder, gentler, that's fine, but I wasn't gonna win races. I would venture to say nobody has stood on the starting line and watched their car go down the racetrack more times than Don Schumacher. He'd done it all: He has driven. He owned. He tuned. And he hustled for sponsors. You just weren't gonna bullshit him. And if you wanted to be on a winning team, he was your guy."

Bob Tasca III: “I was deeply saddened by the news of Don Schumacher's passing. He was not just a legend in the world of NHRA racing but a guiding light in life itself to so many. His wisdom and teachings have left an indelible mark on me. Returning to the sport in 2017 after a brief hiatus, I instinctively reached out to him for guidance. Despite having no obligation, Don generously offered his support, playing a pivotal role in shaping my career and personal growth. I owe a great deal of my success to his unwavering guidance. As I bid farewell, I do so with immense gratitude and love. Godspeed, my dear friend. Your legacy will forever be cherished.” 

Joe Maynard: "There’s no denying Don Schumacher made a profound impact on the sport, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the lasting effect that he made on myself and my late wife, Cathi, as well. He was our mentor and our sounding board; he guided us as we navigated our first year of team ownership. I will continue to do my very best to carry on his legacy and hope to make him proud."

Bandimere family: “We are deeply saddened to hear the news of the passing of Don Schumacher Racing team owner and drag racing icon Don Schumacher. The Bandimere family and staff extend our deepest condolences and prayers of comfort to his family and loved ones.”

Rob Wendland: “He has done so much for so many, including myself. He shaped me into the crew chief I am today. I am forever thankful to him and his family. RIP my friend.”

TJ Zizzo: “Don Schumacher was very instrumental in my personal life. I will never forget how much he cared about me.” 

Kalitta Motorsports: “The entire Kalitta Motorsports Family was deeply saddened to learn of Don Schumacher’s death and offers its most sincere sympathies to the Shumacher family. Kalitta teams raced against Don for decades. He was a fierce competitor, a motorsports icon, and a friend who was loved by everyone at Kalitta Motorsports. Losing a family member is always difficult; we send the Schumacher family courage and peace during this time of mourning."

J.R. Todd: “Sorry to read the news this morning that we lost Don Schumacher. He did so much for the sport and for sure will be missed. Rest easy."

Steve Torrence: “I am very saddened at the passing of Mr. Don Schumacher. Don was someone that helped me very much, he motivated me more than he will ever know. He has become a dear friend to my family, and he will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

Cruz Pedregon: “Our thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of Don Schumacher. Don was not only a great racer but a great businessman who always looked out to help any team he possibly could. His contributions to NHRA and the sport of drag racing will forever be remembered.”

Tanner Gray: “I watched my grandpa [Johnny Gray] drive for Don for many years. He did so much for the sport of drag racing and had the opportunity to have [DSR] on our truck this year at IRP. Thinking of the Schumacher family and friends.”

Tom Patsis, Cold Hard Art: “Hearing of the passing of Don Schumacher is tough to take on multiple levels. Cause the loss of him to his family is very sad. The loss of him to drag racing will definitely have an impact on all the people who have worked at DSR at some point. Even to us, simply cold hard art wouldn't exist. Working at DSR for 11 years (more than 25% of my life) definitely impacted my family's life even today. One of the proud highlights of my art career was when I got the word I would get to make a lifetime achievements award for Don 2022 from NHRA.”

NHRA announcer Alan Reinhart: “If I had to describe Don in one word, it would be 'driven.' Anything he was passionate about, family, business, racing, even fishing, he went at it hard.  As much as he wanted to win, he also wanted the sport to thrive. He was a fierce competitor who supplied the sport and his competitors with parts, safety, and technology, and he raised the standard of excellence. When it came to business, he was all business. But when someone was in need, he would be the first to step up and offer help. His influence will be felt in the sport forever.”

Mike Lewis: “NHRA fans knew Don Schumacher as the Funny Car standout in the 1970s and the modern day team owner with 19 championships and 367 Wallys but he was equally tenacious in building Schumacher Electric into a global enterprise. Schumacher Electric employed a work force of 2000 employees in the US, China and Mexico. He frequently spent 12-to-16-hour days in boardrooms bidding for private label production rights that earned him a market share in excess of 90% in domestic battery charger sales. Don was usually in his office from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and joked about only working half days.

“Racing with Tony was his escape in 1998 but his ambition soon pushed him to expand DSR to a second team in late 2000 and then a third team, a fourth team and eventually an eighth nitro team, not counting his forays into Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle. In Denver, 2006, DSR fielded six nitro cars, two bikes and four Pro Stock cars. DSR teams tripled in Reading, 2004 and Las Vegas, 2006. Naming all those drivers might actually stump Bob Frey. Don was masterful in dealing with Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit and in 2010 DSR delivered two branded semis, four Top Fuel dragsters and a crew of 30 to introduce Top Fuel to the Middle East. Tommy Johnson, Jr. and Rod Fuller ran side-by-side 3.80s on the virgin Yas Drag Strip leaving the sellout crowd speechless. 

“As DSR grew, Don envisioned a shop where DSR employees could manufacture chassis and engine components for in-house use and for other teams. He championed the development of the Top Fuel canopy just as he pioneered Funny Car roof hatches 50 years ago. He used trackside hospitality and media exposure to develop international partnerships resulting in today’s DSM Manufacturing and DSR Performance to contract with aerospace, defense and motorsports customers. Don adapted to modern technology to stay on top of his business interests from his homes in Chicago and Florida, from the golf course or from his deep-sea fishing boat.

“Few race fans saw the softer side of Don with wife Sarah, son Tony and his wife Summer and with daughters Samantha, Tara and Megan with husband Chad Osier who oversees day-to-day operations at DSM and DSR. Don was close to his five grandchildren and especially close to one-year-old Ella.  He was the consummate dog lover. He was loyal to his friends and generous to numerous charities. He maintained full employment during COVID and fielded extra teams for Tony and Cory Mac to fill Top Fuel fiends. He poked and prodded both NHRA and PRO because he loved NHRA Drag Racing and everyone involved. 

“For me personally, Don gave me an opportunity 20 years ago that took us across the US, Europe, and the Middle East. He included my wife Vicki on most of those trips. He gave me time to recover from three medical procedures. He was stern but fair. He was quick to express gratitude. He was generous to my family when Maple Grove suffered through cold rain in 2015. It was Don who informed me when Joe Maynard bought his last Top Fuel team and wanted me to join JCM. I left DSR but Don called from time to time to check in. He called me last summer to say he had Stage 4 cancer. I last visited him in early December and he was in good spirits ... until his beloved Chicago Bears went down in defeat. I spoke for Vicki and told him we loved him.”