Don Schumacher, Hall of Fame Drag Racer and Team Owner, Dies at 79

He leaves behind a legacy of speed, determination, and charitable actions.
Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s a sad day in motorsports. Drag racing legend, International Motorsports Hall of Famer, safety innovator, and owner of the Schumacher Electric Corporation, Don Schumacher, died this past Wednesday at the age of 79 after battling lung cancer. 

It was his second major fight with the disease. Back in 2015, Schumacher overcame head and neck cancer and immediately returned to the dragstrip, further cementing his place among the most influential people in the sport. Sadly, things took a turn for the worse during a private bout this past year. 

Schumacher’s legacy is anything but short. He had a successful racing career running funny car match races in the 1960s and ’70s. He took a break from racing to focus on his family business, Schumacher Electric Corporation, until returning to the sport in 1998. His then-newly established team, Don Schumacher Racing, took its first championship title just one year after its debut. 

Today, the DSR team remains among the most recognized and competitive in the business, with more than 20 drivers, including his son Tony Schumacher. Don Schumacher himself won five Wally trophies, the prize awarded for winning an NHRA national event, during his driving days that contributed to his team’s current total of 367.

Don Schumacher Racing driver Jack Beckman launches his Dodge Charger Funny Car during an NHRA testing session on April 9, 2018 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Over the course of his life, Schumacher made many contributions to the world of drag racing. Among the most notable are his developments of the funny car roof-mounted escape hatch and Top Fuel canopy to improve driver safety. His many career successes and safety innovations are not unrecognized, as he’s been inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, and the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame. He also received the NHRA Lifetime Achievement award. 

In the twilight of his life, Schumacher turned his attention to Don Schumacher Motorsports Precision Manufacturing. This aftermarket division utilized his team’s vast influence and expertise to further advance into the realms of motorsports, defense, and aerospace. 

Few things fast were left untouched by the Schumacher name, with Don at the helm of multiple efforts. His name’s recognized in garages all over the world, let alone the country. That won’t soon change, as even in his old age, Don Schumacher never stopped pushing himself to newer and exciting heights.

Schumacher was also a very philanthropic man throughout his life. His racing team has raised awareness and money for many charities, including the Make-a-Wish and Infinite Hero Foundations. His generous nature continues even after his death; the Schumacher family requests that rather than sending flowers, fans make donations to the MD Anderson Cancer Foundation. Memorial arrangements, including a Celebration of Life Ceremony, have yet to be announced.