Don Schumacher Racing continues to help others through ‘giving car’ program

Jack Beckman and Chandler family representative, Judy Pittman, present a $100,000 donation check to MD Anderson Cancer Center, on behalf of Doug Chandler and his TLC Foundation, during the 2019 Houston race. Photo courtesy of Don Schumacher Racing.

Professional auto racing is by no means an inexpensive sport, and that includes drag racing. 

Many of the teams competing in the NHRA’s highest level would be unable to continue without the assistance of corporate sponsorships, as companies both large and small provide the necessary funds needed to compete in exchange for branding on the team’s cars and equipment. 

Don Schumacher Racing is no different, with the successful team attracting many high-profile sponsors such as NAPA Auto Parts, Pennzoil, and Mopar, among others. 

But what separates DSR from any other organization in motorsports is the fact that two of their Funny Car entries in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series sport the branding of charitable organizations.

Once again in 2020, Jack Beckman’s Funny Car will represent the Infinite Hero Foundation, while The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center branding will be on Tommy Johnson Jr.’s car. Johnson’s car previously carried Make-A-Wish Foundation branding for the previous six seasons.

Both cars are funded through DSR’s unique ‘giving car’ program, which enables a non-profit to be recognized through a dedicated tribute livery at no cost to the charitable organization. 

The giving car program was started in 2014 by the late Terry Chandler, a New Mexico philanthropist and drag racing fan.

The sister of former DSR driver Johnny Gray and aunt of 2018 NHRA Pro Stock champ Tanner Gray (now working his way up the ladder in NASCAR), Terry Chandler took a great interest in drag racing. When her brother retired in 2013, Chandler decided to continue her involvement within the sport by sponsoring one of the team’s Funny Car entries.

However, if Chandler was going to sponsor a car, she wanted to use the opportunity to draw attention to causes that were important to her. Instead of using the sponsorship opportunity for personal gain, Chandler’s focus was to help others.

Terry Chandler and Tommy Johnson Jr. Photo courtesy of Don Schumacher Racing.

“She didn’t want it to be about a business,” said Chandler family representative Judy Pittman. “That really was her nature. She said ‘I want it to be about somebody else.'”

Thus, in 2014, the Funny Car previously driven by Gray was taken over by Johnson Jr. and began carrying the Make-A-Wish Foundation branding.

One year later, the opportunity arose for Chandler to support another car, which brought on the Infinite Hero branding to Beckman’s entry. Infinite Hero is a non-profit that assists wounded military veterans and their families.  

Through these sponsorship opportunities, Chandler and DSR were able to bring greater exposure to both organizations, as well as to put smiles on the faces of children, veterans, and their families.

“When something happens to one member of a family, regardless of if that is cancer or a helicopter crash while serving in Iraq, it affects the entire family, and I think that’s sometimes something that often gets lost,” said DSR Vice President Megan Fessel-Schumacher. “It’s not just affecting the one person it’s actually happening to. Every single member of the family is impacted.

“One thing Don and I always try to instill in everyone is that we are a big family out here, and we’re lucky that Infinite Hero, Make-A-Wish and MD Anderson are now other branches of the DSR family.”

Chandler’s support of the giving car program and positive outlook made her a beloved member of the NHRA community. In 2015, she was presented the NHRA Blaine Johnson Award for her dedication to helping others. 

“Terry became very popular at the track by accident,” said Pittman. “People started knowing who she was because she was such a positive influence. Everybody she raced against she would greet and say ‘I hope you do well.’ She was so positive that people would come from all over to get her autograph. She kind of became the queen of the racetrack. People loved her.”

As she continued to grow in popularity with both competitors and fans alike, Chandler continued to use her role to put smiles on the faces of those she sought to help.

“She would tell children that came through Make-A-Wish ‘this is your car. This isn’t my car. This car is about you,'” Pittman said “She wanted the children with their families for one day to be able to forget about what their illness was.

“She (also) had a tremendous love for veterans. If we were at the starting line and she saw military guests there, she would grab them and pull them up so they could get to see the car. She was an amazing person.”

Chandler passed away after losing a battle with brain cancer in 2017, but her spirit continues to live on thanks in part to her husband Doug Chandler, who through Pittman, has continued to support the giving car program.

With over 500 Wish kids and their families at the track, four Wishes granted, and countless memories made, Doug Chandler made the decision to “spread the giving car love” by fielding an MD Anderson car full-time in 2020 with Johnson at the wheel. 

Jack Beckman piloted the MD Anderson Dodge during the 2019 NHRA SpringNationals last April near Houston. Photo courtsey of Don Schumacher Racing.

“It really warms my heart to be involved with MD Anderson, the giving car, and what Doug Chandler is doing for the future treatment of cancer,” said Don Schumacher. “It is a disease that is being fought very strongly, and MD Anderson is one of the leading facilities in new treatments of cancer, trials, studies and ways to battle this disease today and in the future.”

MD Anderson previously was featured Beckman’s Funny Car in the 2019 Houston event, and the organization has a special place in the hearts of both the Chandler and Schumacher families.

After being diagnosed with cancer, Chandler sought treatment at MD Anderson before ultimately succumbing to the disease, and Schumacher elected to receive treatment provided by the institution when he was diagnosed with head and neck cancer in 2014. 

“I had spent a lot of time at MD Anderson when Don was going through treatment. It’s just an absolutely incredible facility,” said Fessel-Schumacher. “What they do is just absolutely amazing.

“I think for us, to be able to raise awareness of what these causes actually do is the most rewarding part. We’re really thankful that with these cars and with the Chandlers, we can kind of stand together and say ‘Hey, these are some of the incredible programs out there that need our help to continue helping all of these people.’”

Fans can support Chandler and DSR’s initiative by visiting and using the DSRFC solicitation code when making a donation.

Additionally, fans can find out more information about Infinite Hero by visiting their website at Fans can also receive autographed challenge coins carried by Jack Beckman on runs in 2020 by making a $100 donation to the foundation.

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Tom Blomqvist keeps eye on IndyCar during impressive rise: ‘ I would love to give it a go’


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In between two of his latest superstar-driver-in-waiting performances, Tom Blomqvist walked through the Daytona International Speedway garage in anonymity.

“Nobody knows who the (expletive) I am,” he said to a team member with a laugh (and without a trace of being miffed), evincing the cheeky humor of someone born in England, raised in New Zealand and also of Swedish descent.

The lack of recognition in the garage might have been because he was clad in a relatively nondescript shirt, hat and sunglasses instead of a colorful firesuit covered by sponsor logos. But he also was on the way to a Friday race eve media availability where his entrance was greeted by only one reporter (after a few minutes).

During a news conference a day earlier, he sat patiently on the dais while his Indy 500-winning teammates and car owner fielded nearly all the questions – even though Blomqvist had turned maybe the most impressive lap of the month to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position in the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category.

The Meyer Shank Racing driver still might lack the attention commensurate with his already world-class CV (which expanded Sunday with his second consecutive Rolex 24  victory for MSR), but Blomqvist, 29, clearly isn’t bothered by it.

He carries the quiet confidence of knowing his immense talent will ensure results that will make him impossible to ignore.

“To a degree, I guess, it’s definitely ramped up a lot for me,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports. “In America, I’m starting to get a lot more (attention). In the last year, I’ve quite often got a lot of maybe what you’d call the glory moments. It’s been fun. And within the paddock, there’s a lot of respect for me anyway. It’s been good.”

There have been several moments of acclaim since he joined MSR barely a year ago in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. In his first start for the team at last year’s Rolex 24, Blomqvist turned in a Herculean performance to position the No. 60 Acura for the victory (giving way to Helio Castroneves because he was too “cooked” to complete the last 74 minutes).

He was even better this year at Daytona.

He ripped off a monster “one and done” pole-winning lap to beat the clock in qualifying on the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course. During the race, Blomqvist was as dominant in his first stint as his last in the ARX-06 while taking the checkered flag. He set the mark for the fastest time on Lap 6 that no one topped over the final 755 laps.

The 10 fastest laps in the race belonged to Blomqvist, carrying over his speed from the 2022 when he won the Petit Le Mans season finale to clinch the premier prototype championship at Michelin Road Atlanta.

A year earlier at the same track, he had burst onto the radar of car owner Mike Shank, who was intrigued by Blomqvist’s results as a BMW factory driver in the Formula E and DTM series. In 2014, Blomqvist also finished between second in F3, between champion Esteban Ocon (now with Alpine’s F1 team) and Max Verstappen (who has won the past two Formula One championships).

“He did a lot of high-level stuff, and then kind of fell out of favor, or I don’t know what happened, but he was a free agent,” Shank said. “I started looking at his numbers, and I’m like, ‘We should test this guy. So I take him to Road Atlanta in the fall of ’21, and he got in the car and just slayed it.”

Within minutes, he had called co-owner Jim Meyer.

“I’ve got our guy,” Shank said. “This is our guy. There’s no question about it.

Honda Performance Development president David Salters hugs Tom Blomqvist after the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

“Now what’s happened, though, and I think if you look back at the Rolex here last year (and) what he did, he’s a gold nugget. He reminds me a little bit when (Robert) Wickens came into IndyCar out of DTM (as a rookie in 2018).

“He truly believes he’s the fastest guy out there, and he proved it (at the Rolex 24).”

Said David Salters, president for Honda Performance Development: “We love Tom. He’s the real deal, isn’t he? Immensely talented, super smart, and on it.

The great thing about our teams, the strength in depth is tremendous. But if you look through the sports car racing now, that’s the standard you have to have. Tom, brilliant, Filipe (Albuquerque), brilliant. Ricky (Taylor). You can go through that list. They’re all superstars. Tom is awesome. His lap in qualifying quite frankly was unbelievable.”

Having conquered one of the world’s greatest endurance races twice with Acura, Blomqvist could be ticketed for the world’s biggest race next – the Indy 500 — with HPD’s primary brand.

He tested a Dallara-Honda for MSR last October at Sebring International Raceway, and while he plans to focus solely on IMSA this season, he remains very intrigued by IndyCar.

And with Castroneves, 47, beginning a one-year deal with MSR’s IndyCar team, there could be an obvious opening in 2024.

“Obviously, it’s not in the cards this year,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports the day before the Rolex. “Yeah, I would love to give it a go. To be honest, I think that would be an amazing step for me in my career. I enjoy the sports car stuff so much. It’s been really good to me lately. I really enjoyed the style of racing.

“But I feel like IndyCar would be a step up for me and my career. It would be fantastic if I could get that opportunity. But yeah, I guess I have to keep pushing Mike or something to give me a shot. But obviously for now, the focus is here in the sports car stuff. It’s not really down to me at the end of the day. And I’ve got to do my job and then the people who pay the bills and make the decisions obviously have to decide if that’s something worth pursuing.

“But yeah, I’d love to give it a go, and I definitely would be up for it.”

Tom Blomqvist after winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole on the final qualifying lap (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

A transition from IMSA to IndyCar naturally would be easier than switching teams, but it also would be comfortable because Blomqvist already seems such a good fit at MSR.

It might have seemed an unusual pairing given his European-heavy background, but Blomqvist likes the Midwestern culture that’s been built at MSR. Based just outside Columbus, Ohio, the team’s shop has “no egos, and that just enables each and every one of to reach our potential.

“Obviously, with Honda, we obviously have some great resources, but we’re up against Porsche, BMW and some big heavy hitters in the motorsports world,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we’ve got a huge team compared to them, but we’ve obviously got a very capable team, and I think that’s what has been so impressive and really, really nice to see about the work that’s been done. No stone has been left unturned.”

Blomqvist still is living in Europe and planning to commute for the nine-race GTP schedule (which has a nearly two-month break after the Rolex 24 until the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring). But though he’s “got good friends in America, so I do have places to stay,” he seems open to being based more permanently near MSR in America.

“Let’s see what the future brings, and if that means me spending more time over here,” he said. “It’s a fantastic team. It’s a different environment to what I’m used to. It’s obviously now a hugely successful team, but it is a small team. It does feel like a very small family-operated team, which it is.

“I think Mike’s really just built this thing. It hasn’t happened overnight. Mike’s a great guy and put a lot of trust and faith in me, and I played a relatively good part in some of the success last year. I was able to reward him and give him my all every time I’m on track, and he respects that. But we are still a small team. In the grand scheme of things, we still are a really, really small team.”

Blomqvist said the BMW factory program would have two or three times the staffing of MSR – just on one of its two GTP cars.

“But it’s not the number of people that makes a difference, it’s the quality of people, and obviously Mike and HPD are a fantastic operation to go racing,” Blomqvist said. “We’re racers at heart.

“I’ve been part of some big outfits, and the European way of working is very, very different to how people go about racing in America. I’d say it’s more seat of your pants. A lot of emotion and kind of rides on that competitive spirt, competitive nature and on their personalities. It’s a lot more pure. It feels very pure. You want to win, so we go out and don’t cut corners on trying to win.”

Though it’s aligned with Liberty Media and has big-budget backing and support from Honda Performance Development, MSR also is much less corporate than most GTP teams.

A longtime and respected team owner who has built a sponsor portfolio, Shank also describes his maniacal dedication to success as “messed up,” and he’s known for dropping vulgarities into postrace interview with his blunt and self-deprecating sense of humor.

Meyer Shank Racing co-owner Mike Shank congratulates Tom Blomqvist on the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

With a more laid-back but sometimes just as biting demeanor, Blomqvist has become the team’s unquestioned leader behind the wheel

“I definitely feel a lot more immersed,” he said. “Within the team, I was a bit more of an unknown quantity the start of last year. Obviously after last season, the team trusts me a lot. And that gives me a lot of pleasure, pride and confidence. In this sport, confidence is a huge aspect of drivers’ psychology in a way. We’re in extremely high-pressure moments where my job is to perform under the pressure of these organizations and the brand as well.

“It’s just a good, healthy team to be a part of. It’s a high-pressure environment, but the team obviously have put a lot of faith in me, and I’ve been able to deliver for them on occasions.”

Rolex 24 starting lineup
Tom Blomqvist celebrates after winning the pole in the No. 60 Acura ARX-06 (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).