Salinas Ma1
Mike Salinas may compete in both the Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle classes during the coming NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series campaign. (NHRA photo)

WADE: Offseason Changes Galore

MESA, Ariz. — With the start of a new season approaching, even the title sponsor of the NHRA Drag Racing Series has changed — from Camping World to Mission Foods — and that ushered in a flurry of fluctuations among teams and drivers.

Tim Wilkerson retired from driving his Funny Car and son Daniel will move into his seat, while Leah Pruett gave up her Top Fuel ride to husband Tony Stewart as they try to start a family.

Tony Schumacher has a new teammate in European/FIA Top Fuel champion Ida Zetterström at JCM Racing, after team principal Joe Maynard divested himself of 2023 ventures Maynard Ashley Racing and Maynard Wilkerson Racing.

SCAG purchased those operations and will field the cars of Justin Ashley (Top Fuel) and Dan Wilkerson, while keeping its Pro Stock presence through sponsorship.

Buddy Hull is abandoning Top Fuel and driving what he loves most: a Funny Car, for Jim Dunn Racing. The Texas roofing-company owner said he started with a Fuel Altered and grew up with Funny Cars.

“My experience of driving race cars, 95 percent of it is with the engine between my legs. What (people) know about me in the professional ranks is Top Fuel,” Hull said. “It’s actually more peculiar that I drove Top Fuel to start. That’s just how my career worked. It was where opportunity was at the time, so I took it.

“I will probably never go back to Top Fuel. I feel like I belong in a Funny Car. My body, my frame fits better in a Funny Car. If I’m in control and if I have my two cents on it, I’ll probably forever and always be in a Funny Car.”

Hull sold his Top Fuel equipment to former Scott Palmer Racing associate Jacob McNeal and leases him a hauler, tools and shop space as McNeal starts his own team.

Likewise, Travis Shumake, son of the late Funny Car fan favorite Tripp Shumake, is getting ready to debut in Top Fuel. He has established his organization with a Brownsburg, Ind., headquarters.

Jasmine Salinas is stepping up from the Top Alcohol Dragster ranks for a go at Top Fuel alongside dad Mike Salinas — who said he just might race in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class, as well, competing against another daughter, Jianna Evaristo.

Funny Car owner Mark Herzhauser has provided an entry for Jim Campbell to drive at selected races. It will feature the Captain Paul Watson Foundation, a nonprofit designed to raise awareness about ocean conservation. 

Top Fuel’s Cameron Ferré will wheel Hertzig/Akers Motorsports’ “Johnnys On Thin Ice” AA/FC this year in the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage and Legends of Nitro Racing Series.

The move, he said, gives him the chance “to get back into a race-winning-caliber car and run for a championship – not to mention keep me out on track while I work on getting back to Top Fuel. This will for sure keep my finger on the nitro pulse and allow me to stay as relevant as I can.”

Shawn Reed is returning to Top Fuel, renting a dragster from his new crew chief, Rob Wendland, and striking a technical alliance with Antron Brown.

The Pro Stock class has picked up an icon and a newcomer and will see a champion move to another category.

Celebrated Jeg Coughlin will come out of retirement again for a full season with Elite Motorsports with SCAG sponsorship, while Bo Butner has switched to the Mountain Motor Pro Stock class.

The already loaded KB Titan Racing team will add a second woman. Sienna Wildgust, the 17-year-old daughter of Pro Mod racer Scott Wildgust, is hoping to complete her licensing process and come down from Canada to compete at the Gatornationals season opener.

Seasoned Chris Bostick has joined the White Alligator Racing Pro Stock Motorcycle team as running mate to reigning rookie of the year Chase Van Sant. Longtime crew chief Tim Kulungian purchased the team from Jerry Savoie.

Drag racing pioneers Don Schumacher, Roland Leong and Paula Murphy died within nine days of one another in December.

Schumacher’s return to drag racing in 1998 began as a simple mission: To ensure that son Tony raced safe cars. But after Tony Schumacher earned the first of his class-record eight Top Fuel championships and 86 victories, the team grew into the NHRA’s largest and most successful operation, with 19 championships and 367 victories.

Moreover, Schumacher’s legacy includes safety innovation and philanthropy. Most recently, he funded and directed the enclosed canopy for Top Fuel dragsters project that many leading teams have embraced.

He also is credited with the introduction of the Funny Car roof escape hatch. His generosity has benefited Riley Hospital for Children, the Infinite Hero Foundation, Make-A-Wish Foundation and the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Leong was a Top Fuel and Funny Car owner and tuner maybe best known for his Hawaiian-branded race cars and his drivers, including Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Danny Ongais.

Murphy was the first woman to wheel a jet car to a Bonneville Salt Flats speed record, to make laps at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and to earn an NHRA Funny Car license. She’s the subject of Erik Arneson’s most recent book, “The Fastest Woman on Wheels: The Life of Paula Murphy.”