If the ‘Shoe’ fits: How one race began NHRA dynasty at Don Schumacher Racing

Don Schumacher Racing
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Twenty years ago this weekend, Don Schumacher and then 28-year-old Tony Schumacher set out on a father-son journey. They didn’t know where it would take them, but they were hoping for a fast ride in more ways than one.

It was at the 1998 U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, the biggest annual drag race in the National Hot Rod Association, where Don Schumacher Racing – with Tony in the driver’s seat of a Top Fuel dragster – debuted. It was one of those situations where they’d give it a shot and see where things would go from there.

Indeed, things went pretty well, pretty fast and pretty quick — and they’ve continued to go that way for the last 20 years:

* In 1999, DSR’s first full season together in the NHRA ranks, Tony won the Top Fuel championship.

* That title would be the first of what would become 16 world championships across Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock Bike for DSR, born in Chicago but now based in Brownsburg, Indiana.

* Equally as noteworthy, DSR has notched 329 NHRA national event victories as a team in the organization’s two decades of operation.

* And Tony Schumacher has gone on to become the winningest driver in Top Fuel history with eight of DSR’s 16 championships, as well as 84 national event wins.

And to think it all began as something simple as a bonding experience between father and son, with their equal passion for drag racing being the foundation of incredible success two decades later.

“Tony’s the one that caused me to get back into the sport, to say the least,” Don concedes. “The Peak brothers (a Denver-based team that Tony had driven for part-time in 1996 and 1997) were going to get out of the sport, so he said, ‘Come on, dad, let’s go do this together.’ So I put together a sponsorship with Exide Batteries and we came out and started doing it.

“And now we’ve won 16 world championships, Tony has won eight of them and he’s the winningest Top Fuel driver of all time. Hopefully, he gets his ninth (championship) this year.”


Don Schumacher’s drag racing story didn’t just begin in 1998. Rather, it began more than 50 years ago. Schumacher was quite the drag racer himself in his youth and young adulthood. He earned five national event wins in his own NHRA career, including a win in the 1970 U.S. Nationals.

But it was in nearly a decade in the 1960s and early 1970s as a match racer – a driver who would be lured across the U.S. and Canada by track owners and promoters to race for bragging rights and money – that the elder Schumacher excelled.

During that time, Don Schumacher wound up winning 70 percent of nearly 600 starts, making him one of the greatest match racers ever.

Don Schumacher Racing: From left, Tommy Johnson Jr., Leah Pritchett, Ron Capps, Don Schumacher, Tony Schumacher, Matt Hagan, Jack Beckman and Antron Brown.

But with two young kids underfoot and a third on the way, plus a fledgling business – Don Schumacher Electric Corporation – that was trying to grow, Don walked away from drag racing cold in 1975.

“I totally stepped away from it,” Schumacher said. “It was the right thing for me to do. It was a different world back in the 1970s. And it’s very different today. It was a step that I took and one that I’m glad I took (at the time).”

While he’d occasionally still attend drag races as a spectator over the next 20-plus years, especially his beloved U.S. Nationals, the suburban Chicago native vowed to never race again. That lasted 23 years until Tony convinced him to get back in the game, but as a team owner while Tony did the driving.

And the rest is NHRA history.

Today, Don Schumacher Racing is the largest and winningest organization in drag racing. It has grown from Tony’s one-car Top Fuel operation to one that now boasts nine cars under one roof:

* 3 cars in Top Fuel: The afore-mentioned eight-time champ Tony Schumacher, three-time champion Antron Brown and Leah Pritchett.

* 4 cars in Funny Car: 2016 champ Ron Capps, two-time champ Matt Hagan, “Fast Jack” Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr.

* 2 Factory Stock cars driven by Pritchett and longtime drag racing veteran Mark Pawuk.

At 73 years old, you’d think Don Schumacher would be easing towards a second retirement. Nothing could be further from the truth. The man thrives on competition – and beating – rivals in both the electric supply business, as well as on the drag strip.

“I am a driven individual,” the man nicknamed “Shoe” says. “I’ve always believed and always worked by the belief that the harder and longer you work, the better results you’ll get and you’ll beat your competition every time.

“And surround yourself with the greatest people you can find. They’ll make you look good and give you results. That’s what I try to do. I’m not happy when I lose some of my key people. Those things happen, competitors will step in and do things that affect me that way, I try to do the best job I can and go out there and win races.”

Schumacher employs 2,150 people in his electric supply business worldwide, with another 140 employees at DSR.

Even after all his years in the sport and all the wins he’s seen, Schumacher will never, ever get tired of winning.

“Every time we win, I feel ecstatic,” he said. “It’s just fantastic. I love beating the Forces, the Torrences, the Alan Johnsons, the Kalittas and McMillans and Millicans, right on down the line.

“They’re all my friends. I consider them all family. But while I love beating every one of them on the starting line, I’ll help every one of them in the pits.”

Now, losing is a much different story for Schumacher. He absolutely hates to see the win light go on in the opponent’s lane.

“It’s terrible, devastating to me, even when our drivers have to race each other,” he said. “I hate when, say, Antron Brown has to race Leah Pritchett or Tony (Schumacher) or Ron Capps has to race Matt Hagan or Jack Beckman or Tommy Johnson Jr. It’s terrible for either one of those teams that one of them are going to lose.”

But at the end of the day, win or lose, going head-to-head vs. friend or foe, Schumacher has a very surprising attitude about his competitors. While other owners can be vengeful and even spiteful against the competition, that’s not the way Don Schumacher was raised, nor is it the way he does business.

“I’d have to say it’s the competitors,” he said when asked why he’s still so involved in racing. “Really, we’re a family out here. It doesn’t matter who it is, whether it’s Connie Kalitta or John Force, Cruz Pedregon, Steve and Billy Torrence, or any of the teams out here, we’re really a family here and we’re here to take care of each other, which is a very special thing in business.

“In my other business, you don’t have those kinds of relationships with your competitors. The sponsors are all very special to me, they’re personal to me, I undoubtedly use all of the products and I support the products emphatically. The two foundations I have onboard – Infinite Hero and Make-A-Wish – is really a special, special situation. It shows me and brings me things that I never would have experienced.

“And the U.S. Army relationship is the same, being involved in the Pentagon, and Tony has gone over to Afghanistan and Iraq, it’s really a special relationship. But I have that with all my sponsors. Last but not least are the fans. Super, super fans, the access they have to us, the time they take to be with us and visit us, not only at the races, but for me, all over the world.”

Unfortunately, the Army is parting ways with DSR following this season after a nearly 20-year relationship, leaving Schumacher to have to find a new primary sponsor for his son’s dragster, as well as a co-primary sponsor on Brown’s Top Fueler, as well.


Don Schumacher isn’t just one of the fiercest competitors in the sport, he’s also one of the most well-respected.

“The thing about Don Schumacher is that, here is a guy that had Hall of Fame success early in his career in the NHRA,” Capps said. “The bigger story is that he was smart enough to go back and run the family business, to build it to what it is today, and come back into the sport and be a successful owner.

“He reminds me a lot of Roger Penske in that here is a guy running a multi-billion-dollar business and yet still has the passion to show up at the racetrack every day to compete.”

Antron Brown, Don Schumacher and Tommy Johnson Jr. celebrate DSRs 300th NHRA win.

Added Brown, “Don has elevated our sport to higher levels and particularly has been the contributor to championships and innovations beyond belief. His 20 years as a team owner in drag racing, if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be a three-time world champ, I wouldn’t have over 50 Top Fuel wins or 16 Pro Stock Bike wins.

“He has affected and influenced our sport in ways that only he could, period. Not just me, but the entire sport, has grown and prospered from the dedication and the hard work that this man has put in. So I’m truly grateful, in 20 years of drag racing, he’s helped many people’s dreams reality, including mine.”

And then there’s the guy who kind of helped start it all, Tony Schumacher, now 48.

“Many people pass through this great sport and are remembered for great accomplishments,” Tony said. “Few will be remembered like my father.

“A man who not once, but twice entered this sport with a passion like no other and took a single-car team and turned it into a multi-team winning machine. He innovated the sport in many ways and made drivers and crews safer.”

Indeed, safety is one of the most significant contributions Don Schumacher has brought to the sport. While he’s modest when it comes to accepting accolades, there’s no question Schumacher has helped generate a number of safety equipment and rules changes over the last two decades.

He was one of the first to have his Funny Cars adopt roof-mounted escape hatches so that drivers could quickly escape when all-too-frequent fires erupted. He also was one of the first to implement a fire suppression system inside Funny Cars, with a lever attached to the brake handle, allowing drivers to apply both while using the other hand to steer the race car.

And in Top Fuel, Schumacher was the first team owner to introduce a protective canopy cover over the driver’s compartment for even greater safety.

Schumacher is particularly close with NHRA not just for safety initiatives, but also because, well, a strong relationship with the sanctioning body is good business in and of itself.

“We are two separate businesses that I find remarkable how closely we work together, not just with DSR, but also with the Professional Racers Organization,” Schumacher said. “We’re all on board for the same thing, we all want the sport to excel, to continue growing, continue getting bigger, getting more sponsors in.

“We work closer together now than we ever have. They are the sanctioning body. They have rules and regulations that I push the boundaries on all the time. That’s just my nature in business, and I will continue to do that.

“But we work very closely together, have a great relationship and a lot of respect for each other. I look to maintain that and continue to grow that.”

During the interview for this story, Schumacher remarked how he wasn’t looking to get back into drag racing until his son approached him in 1998.

But now, he wouldn’t have had it any other way, given how things have evolved and all the success he and his organization have enjoyed.

“I came back into the sport because Tony wanted to race,” Don Schumacher said. “It wasn’t something I was driven to, it was something I was pulled back into. I’d go to Indy every year (as a spectator) and I would thank God that I walked away and didn’t get back in another race car.

“But once racing is in your system, you’re possessed by it. It’s always in your system, always in your blood, once you come out and do it.”


Like his drag racing teams, Schumacher, who will be inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America next March, has no plans of slowing down any time soon.

On the contrary. He is hoping to add a fourth Top Fuel dragster to the team, expand the Factory Stock program to three or four teams, and will continue to grow both his electric and drag racing businesses.

“I have no plan to retire,” he said. “My daughter Meghan and my son Tony will continue on with this once I drift away, if I ever do that.

“But I have no plans of stepping away. I love the sport, I love what I do, we continue to expand the racing operations in Brownsburg, Indiana.

“Right now, I have nine teams. I’d never have imagined that. That isn’t anything that was ever a plan or desire on my part. I try to do the right thing for my company, for my employees, for the sport, for my sponsors and the fans.

“I’m a businessman. I always look at business where you can’t just stay status quo. If you do that, you’ll start to go down. So I look to continue to grow.”

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2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Motocross season opener: Jett Lawrence rockets to the top


As the SuperMotocross season heads outdoors, the NBC Power Rankings change significantly with results from the Motocross opener at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. The Power Rankings assign a numeric value to each individual moto (90 points maximum) as well as the overall standings (100 points) and averages that number over the past 45 days. Included in the Power Rankings are results from the final five Supercross rounds, which fit into that 45-day timeframe.

Dylan Ferrandis finished on the podium in his first race back after experience a concussion in Supercross Round 4 at Houston. – Align Media

It didn’t take long for Jett Lawrence to rocket to the top of the SuperMotocross rankings – only about 74 minutes in fact. Lawrence dominated his first moto and beat his teammate Chase Sexton, the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross champion, to the line by 10 seconds. He had to fight a little harder for the second moto win as Sexton stalked him throughout the race and ended up less than a second behind.

Beginning this week, we have added the SuperMotocross points’ ranking beside the rider’s name and in one fell swoop, Lawrence went from being unranked in the 450 class to 26th. To qualify for the inaugural SuperMotocross’ guaranteed 20 positions that automatically make the gate for the three-race championship series, Lawrence needs to be inside the top 20 in combined Supercross and Motocross points. The bubble is currently held by Justin Starling and Lawrence needs to make up 44 points to overtake him.

Sexton’s second-place finish in the overall standings at Fox Raceway marked his ninth consecutive top-five finish. After the race, Sexton compared the battle he had with Lawrence to the one he experienced with Eli Tomac in last year’s Pro Motocross championship. These two riders had a significant advantage over the field in Pala, but there is still a lot of racing to be completed.

MORE: Jett Lawrence wastes no time, wins first 450 race

After missing 13 rounds to a concussion, Dylan Ferrandis told NBC Sports that he was not going to do anything risky in the season opener at Fox Raceway. If he dialed back his effort at all, one would be hard-pressed to notice. He finished third in both motos and was third in the overall standings. Ferrandis began the weekend just outside the top 20 in combined SuperMotocross points and climbed to 19th. In the next few weeks, he will get a little more breathing room over the cutline and then challenge for wins.

Adam Cianciarulo’s three-race streak of top-five finishes ended with a sixth-place overall at Fox Raceway, but that was enough to advance him one position in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings and land him eighth in the combined points standings. His individual motos were moderate, but Cianciarulo is still battling the effects of injury and a nagging loss of strength in his wrist.

Aaron Plessinger returned from injury in the Supercross season finale to finish second at Salt Lake City. He added another top-five to his season total and now has six of those in the 13 rounds he’s made. With Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac not currently racing in Motocross, Plessinger has an opportunity to rise to the third seeding in short order.

450 Rankings

Driver (SMX rank) Power
1. Jett Lawrence (26) 93.33 NA
2. Chase Sexton (1) 92.36 1 -1
3. Dylan Ferrandis (19) 89.00 NA
4. Adam Cianciarulo (8) 82.89 5 1
5. Aaron Plessinger (5) 81.20 9 4
6. Justin Hill (9)
Not racing MX
79.75 8 2
7. Ken Roczen (4)
injured | Not racing MX
79.13 3 -4
8. Jose Butron (30) 75.67 NA
9. Lorenzo Locurcio (29) 75.00 NA
10. Eli Tomac (2)
74.50 2 -8
11. Dean Wilson (10)
Not racing MX
72.88 7 -4
12. Cooper Webb (3) 71.17 6 -6
13. Jerry Robin (32) 70.33 NA
14. Justin Barcia (6)
70.00 4 -10
15. Kyle Chisholm (15) 65.36 11 -4
16. Dante Oliveira (36) 65.00 NA
17. Shane McElrath (11)
Not racing MX
63.63 12 -5
18. Ryan Surratt (38) 63.33 NA
19. Josh Hill (13)
Not racing MX
62.38 13 -6
20. Justin Starling (20)
Not racing MX
62.13 19 -1

Motocross 450 Points

A bad start to Moto 1 at Fox Raceway was not enough to deter Hunter Lawrence. Neither was the fact that he was riding with sore ribs after experiencing a practice crash earlier in the week. He was a distant 10th to start the first race and for most of the 30 minutes, it seemed he would finish off the podium. Lawrence did not win the 250 East Supercross championship by giving in to hopelessness or pain, however.

Lawrence picked off one rider and then another until he found the battle for the top five in front of him at the halfway point. Once the field started to lap riders, Lawrence used the opportunity to continue forward through the grid. He passed third-place Jo Shimoda with two laps remaining and challenged Maximus Vohland for second on the final trip around Fox Raceway, but had to settle for the final spot on the podium. Lawrence dominated Moto 2 and claimed the overall victory in Pala.

Justin Cooper made his first start of the season at Fox Raceway and earned enough NBC Power Average points to climb to second. Partly this was due to consistently strong runs in both motos and a 5-4 that gave him the fifth position overall, but he is also not weighed down with moderate Supercross results. It will take a week or two to see where his strength lands him on the grid.

Motocross 250 Points

In only his third Pro Motocross National, Haiden Deegan scored a second-place finish in the overall standings. – Align Media

RJ Hampshire may feel he has something to prove after finishing second to Jett Lawrence in the 250 SX West division. He certainly rode like that was the case in Moto 1 and easily outpaced the field on his way to victory lane. In Moto 2, he crashed twice on Lap 1 and dropped back to 39th. It took half of the race to get inside the top 20 and salvage points. By the end of the race, he was 11th and while that was enough to get him on the overall podium, it cost him points in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings.

Haiden Deegan surprised the field in Houston in his 250 Supercross debut by finishing fifth. At the time, he said his strong result was because there were no expectations. He echoed that statement after the Motocross season opener. His second-place finish in the overall standings was enough to project him five positions up the SuperMotocross Rankings. In 11 rounds in the combined series, Deegan has earned seven top-fives and a worst finish of eighth.

Jo Shimoda did not make his first Supercross race of 2023 until late in the season. He finished fourth on the hybrid track of Atlanta, which had some similar elements to Fox Raceway. His fourth-place finish in Moto 1 of the Motocross opener made it seem likely he would score an overall podium, but a sixth in the second race cost him points in the NBC Power Rankings in a field that promises to be extremely tight.

250 Rankings

Driver (SMX rank) Power
1. Hunter Lawrence (1) 89.56 2 1
2. Justin Cooper (42) 84.67 NA
3. RJ Hampshire (3) 83.67 3 0
3. Haiden Deegan (4) 83.67 8 5
5. Jo Shimoda (16) 82.33 7 2
6. Guillem Farres (46) 79.33 NA
7. Levi Kitchen (6) 79.11 5 -2
8. Max Anstie (5) 77.83 12 4
9. Max Vohland (8) 77.50 14 5
10. Enzo Lopes (10) 76.00 11 1
11. Mitchell Oldenburg (13) 74.25 16 5
12. Carson Mumford (19) 71.22 17 5
13. Jordon Smith (7) 70.56 9 -4
14. Ryder DiFrancesco (48) 70.33 NA
15. Chris Blose (12) 67.00 13 -2
16. Chance Hymas (27) 66.00 19 3
17. Tom Vialle (9) 65.78 18 1
18. Jett Reynolds (55) 63.33 NA
19. Michael Mosiman (28) 62.33 20 1
20. Garrett Marchbanks (64) 59.00 NA

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner in Supercross and overall winner in Motocross. It awards 90 points for each Moto, Heat and Triple Crown win. The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 13 AT ATLANTA: Justin Barcia leapfrogs the Big 3
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 11 AT SEATTLE: Cooper Webb, Eli Tomac overtake Chase Sexton
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 10 AT DETROIT: Chase Sexton narrowly leads Webb
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 8 AT DAYTONA: Chase Sexton unseats Eli Tomac
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 7 AT ARLINGTON: Jason Anderson narrowly trails Eli Tomac
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 6 AT OAKLAND: Perfect night keeps Eli Tomac first
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 5 AT TAMPA: Chase Sexton, Cooper Webb close in
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 4 AT HOUSTON: Eli Tomac rebounds from A2 crash, retakes lead
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Ken Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage