Susan Wade

Don Schumacher’s New Direction

SNOHOMISH, Wash. — Just as extraordinary as Brittany Force’s speed-ratcheting winning performance en route to winning the recent NHRA national event at California’s Sonoma Raceway was the official news that evening that Don Schumacher had relinquished control of his once-mighty race team.

New stewards Joe and Cathi Maynard still supply the passion and business savvy that will ensure longevity and success for the newly branded Maynard Family Racing/Don Schumacher Racing, or JCM/DSR.

Tony Schumacher, the eight-time Top Fuel champion and most successful driver in the class’s history with 86 victories, will still headline the organization.

But it’s the end of an era.

Some might say it’s the beginning of one, both for the Maynards, the philanthropic couple from middle Tennessee, and for Don Schumacher. Whichever it is, the face of the Camping World Drag Racing Series changed dramatically.

Will the move give rise to John Force Racing again? After JFR sat out all but the first two races of the 2020 season and returned in 2021 without Austin Prock in a second dragster, many predicted the Force empire was waning.

But by June of this year, Robert Hight was the runaway Funny Car points leader (with five victories in seven finals through the first 11 races), John Force looked well-positioned to contend for a 17th championship, Prock is back with aspirations and Brittany Force was gobbling up track records like they were bar snacks.

Don Schumacher, despite his shrinking organization, said, “I believe the multi-car teams with the current owners and the new owners will be ultimately the way the sport progresses and goes forward.”

Then, in announcing his latest move, he said, “Full fields are imperative to the health of NHRA and we will continue to look for opportunities that will allow us to field championship-contending nitro teams.”

Meanwhile, John Force, who fields four cars, has said, “I don’t know — I might end up with two cars one day.”

Antron Brown said the smaller, single-car teams are on the rise, yet he has said he’s not opposed to building his AB Motorsports into a four-car operation with a maximum of two Top Fuel dragsters and two Funny Cars. 

Any fan who feels like he or she just fell down a rabbit hole and emerged in Wonderland isn’t alone. Who knows whether multi-car teams are passé? Who knows if the power lies in well-managed, performance-aggressive single-car teams? Time — and the economy — will tell.

The economy drove Don Schumacher’s decision to step away from his race team that has produced 19 series championships and 366 victories.

He has ramped up his DSM Precision Manufacturing operation, which son-in-law Chad Osier oversees. The ultramodern machining operation inside his 150,000-square-foot race shop at Brownsburg, Ind., has strategic partnerships with a robust blend of industries: aerospace, automotive, aviation, defense and sport fishing.

This addition to his portfolio proved to be a lifesaver when most of his drivers branched off to tackle their own ventures, and now it will be Schumacher’s primary focus.

“I love drag racing,” Schumacher said, “and while I may be taking a step back from the Top Fuel team at this time, I have no intention of leaving the sport. But for now, this move makes sense.”

He added, “It was a necessity, with the sport cutting back in 2020 with the number of races, and even only 20 races in 2021. We had to broaden our spectrum of business. It couldn’t just be a machine shop for race parts. So, we had to expand our vision there. And we’ve gotten into a lot of other areas of manufacturing that is really the right thing for that machine shop to do.

“Ultimately, when I moved in and opened the building in Brownsburg and started to expand the machine shop, my desire was to have a machine shop that took care of a lot of outside business and there was just a little corner of it that took care of racing parts and pieces. So we’ll see if that dream that I had when I put together the machine shop in the first place, we’ll see if that can come to be in the next few years,” Schumacher said.

“We have a lot of opportunities in the works with DSR Performance,” he said, “and will continue to engineer and supply leading racing parts to the drag racing community, in addition to expanding our defense and aerospace contracts. Earlier this season, we announced the launch of an exciting new project, the DSR 1150 crate engine. But I feel that we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of DSR Performance’s capabilities.

“By being able to let go of the reins of the Top Fuel team a little bit, we’re able to focus our attention on continuing to develop that side of the business.”

The Maynards have taken up the slack with enthusiasm.

Joe Maynard said, “It is our strong desire to build a new legacy with Tony at the wheel while maintaining the legacy of Don and DSR through our partnership.”

Don Schumacher noted that to fans and marketing partners his activity “will appear to be business as usual.”