On the Record with Don Schumacher

Don Schumacher is an amazing man. He’s an accomplished fuel funny car racer and the premier professional drag racing team owner. He’s a smart and very successful business person with multiple businesses employing thousands of people. Twenty-six times a year he manages to enter four funny cars and three top fuel dragsters into NHRA Mello Yello races — which is a Herculean task in and of itself. That those team frequently win races and championships is testament to the will and skill of the head of Don Schumacher Racing.

Don Schumacher is a very cerebral man, he has to be to be where he is today. When he was racing he experienced a lot of success in the match racing world. He was known for innovations in drivetrain technology and safety advances. We got to sit down with him for a long interview in his mobile office in the DSR pits at the NHRA Summit Racing Nationals in Las Vegas on March 29th. We can’t even imagine the demands on the time of a man who is running seven 10-person professional race teams at a time, but Don gave us his full and undivided attention.

: Let’s start with we’re here at the Vegas Summit Nationals and – how are you doing? How is Schumacher Racing doing?

Don Schumacher: We’re doing just fine. We’ve qualified one, three, nine and ten in funny car. We’re qualified two, five and eight in top fuel. Really the heavy power is doing a good job for us out here. We’ve still got another day of qualifying. It’s going to be a little warmer today so it will be a little tougher for the guys to get down the track. I think all of those numbers should stand. The one area that may change could possibly be top fuel because we’ll get a little bit more rubber down on the track. This first session should be a good session.

: We asked Matt [Hagan] at the tower last night as we were walking out if he thought that his number one position would hold up. He was very political about it. He did everything but say, “Yeah, it’s going to be worse tomorrow.”

DS: And then it will be a rocket ship on Sunday because it’s going to be really cool on Sunday.

: Let’s start with some questions about the NHRA. We’d like to start with some technical issues. You have brought the capsule in with the top fuel dragsters. Antron [Brown] unfortunately proved last year that it’s a very badly needed safety device. Do you know of any movement or any possibility that NHRA is going to mandate those?

DS: They struggle with that just because of the cost factor – adding that additional cost to every team out here. I certainly feel like it is very well worth the cost to have the safety of the drivers increased. And NHRA continues to meet with us on different items besides the canopy from some of the other panels that we run on the cars. Everybody identifies it just as the canopy. It’s actually a whole cockpit. It’s not just the canopy. Yes the canopy itself – it’s got a bullet proof windshield of Lexan and such that makes it safer, but the whole cockpit is really...