Don Schumacher. (NHRA Photo)

Don Schumacher To Be Honored During Route 66 Nationals

BROWNSBURG, Ind. — Motorsports icon Don Schumacher will be honored during a trackside Celebration of Life ceremony when the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series heads to the Chicago area for the NHRA Route 66 Nationals, May 17-19.

The late NHRA team owner and Funny Car pioneer privately battled lung cancer before succumbing to illness-related complications on Dec. 20, 2023.

Schumacher is a native of the Chicago area, and the Windy City fostered his rise to prominence.

The NHRA community, including officials, crews, drivers, sponsors, and fans, will all come together to celebrate the life of the founder of Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) at Route 66 Raceway, the Schumacher family’s home track located in Joliet, Ill.

On May 17, all Friday ticketholders are encouraged to gather in a trackside tent for a community-wide Celebration of Life. The ceremony will begin promptly at 11:30 a.m. with NHRA on FOX lead broadcaster Brian Lohnes delivering the opening remarks, followed by a moment of silence led by Racers for Christ.

Schumacher had a longstanding relationship with Racers for Christ, having hosted the group’s Sunday services in the DSR hospitality tents for many years. 

Schumacher was a well-known philanthropist, often utilizing his team’s fleet of race cars to raise money and awareness for causes near and dear to his heart. To honor Schumacher’s commitment to giving back, attendees will be able to purchase a raffle ticket in exchange for a $10 donation to MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Schumacher and his longtime friend and DSR sponsor partner Terry Chandler both received treatment at MD Anderson during their respective battles with cancer.

Schumacher, who was 79 at the time of his passing, leaves a lasting legacy as one of drag racing’s most influential figures. His teams amassed 19 NHRA world championship titles and 367 Wally trophies, including the five he won while behind the wheel of a Funny Car, making him the winningest team owner in NHRA history.

During his driving career in the 1960s and ‘70s, he contributed cutting-edge safety innovations for the new Funny Car category, including a roof-mounted escape hatch that allows drivers to quickly exit when fires occur, as well as becoming 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.

Among his other notable contributions, Schumacher also spearheaded the development of an enclosed canopy for Top Fuel dragsters, which has become a standard feature for multiple NHRA teams. Schumacher’s on-track dominance and efforts for the advancement of safety innovation have been widely recognized.

He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2013, enshrined into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2019, and in 2022, was presented with NHRA’s Lifetime Achievement Award.