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Don Schumacher Racing Proving Today’s Racing Sponsorships are Different

An adage among race teams seeking financial backing from businesses and corporations once was “win on Sunday, sell on Monday.”

That was at least 20 years ago and before sponsors became “marketing partners.”

Even for organizations like Don Schumacher Racing, which owns more NHRA professional event trophies (247) than any other, directly improving their partners’ bottom lines every day of the week is as paramount as leaving Sunday with a trophy.

DSR continues to field seven highly successful professional teams in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series representing major products, services and charities.

Since DSR was established in 1998, owner Don Schumacher has been at the forefront of creating innovative sponsorship opportunities from mobile hospitality pavilions with a traveling chef to linking sponsors through business-to-business opportunities.

“We rely on winning but you want your sponsors to sell Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” said Schumacher, a Funny Car driver/owner pioneer in the late 1960s and early 1970s who left to grow his family’s worldwide Schumacher Electric Corporation.

His business and mechanical acumen are why DSR has been able to harness corporate America.

“You can’t just think if you won on Sunday you’ll sell on Monday and things will be OK. We have to work every day to build greater relationships with every sponsorship partner. We have to make it work for sponsors, their employees and customers and try to marry things together to build business-to-business relationships among all DSR sponsors.

“The foundation of my organization is to continue to push the envelope as far and as hard as we can in all areas to create the best environment out here for everyone involved with DSR.”

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DSR is based outside of Indianapolis in Brownsburg with a 100,000-square-foot building where 110 are employed full time in a building with space for the race teams’ 14 Freightliner tractors and trailers, a machine and fabrication shops that produce about 300 different racing components.

About 90 DSR employees travel to each Mello Yello race with 19 18-wheelers including a $500,000, 53-foot kitchen with a full-time chef that provides more than 1,000 meals for two hospitality pavilions located between DSR pit areas.

“I got out of racing for a number of years (1975-1997) to focus on Schumacher Electric and then came back with my son Tony and brought all that business knowledge and experience back to the sport,” said Schumacher who turned Schumacher Electric Corp. into the country’s largest producer of battery chargers with annual sales of around $200 million.

That’s why DSR’s seven winning drivers will arrive in Houston by Wednesday, a day earlier than they do for most of the 24 national events on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series tour because a full agenda awaits.

A variety of events throughout the year are held with marketing partners that include the U.S. Army, NAPA AUTO PARTS, Matco Tools, Mopar/Dodge and its newest, Houston-based Shell Oil that joined DSR a month ago with Pennzoil becoming “The Official Oil Technology of DSR.”

While Pennzoil is the most recent partner, the U.S. Army has been with DSR since 2000 and driver Tony Schumacher, the reigning and eight-time Top Fuel world champion. It is one of the longest running marketing partnerships in motorsports.

NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car driver Ron Capps, who owns 44 NHRA nitro titles, got a jump on his DSR teammates when on Monday he flew from his home near San Diego to Omaha, Neb., for Tuesday visits to NAPA AUTO PARTS stores. On Wednesday, he flies with a NAPA store owner to Louisiana for an appearance and returns to Houston that night to be ready for the following day’s NAPA golf outing with employees and customers.

On Thursday, six DSR drivers will be involved with promotional activities in the Houston area with reigning and two-time Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan being the busiest. At noon, the Virginia cattle farmer will visit popular KBME sports talk host Matt Thomas to discuss the upcoming NHRA SpringNationals before joining teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. to visit the Shell Technology Center from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. in West Hollow before ending the day at Bayshore Dodge with Matco Tools distributors.

Schumacher’s Thursday begins at Clear Lake High School where he will display his championship U.S. Top Fuel dragster from 10 a.m. to noon that will be followed at the Baytown track the next morning with the NHRA Youth Education Services (YES) program with more than 500 students at the track.

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Antron Brown, the current Top Fuel points leader who won at Houston a year ago, will spend the evening racing go-karts with Matco Tools distributors at Pole Position Raceway located southwest of Baytown in Webster.

Spencer Massey, currently ranked fourth in Top Fuel, will hold his annual go-karting event at J&J Speedway in Baytown Thursday night with about 80 nitro drivers and crew members participating with support from some NHRA sponsors.

SpringNationals qualifying is scheduled to begin 4:30 p.m. Friday, but long before that 2012 Funny Car world champion and cancer survivor Jack Beckman will visit the outpatient cancer clinic at Texas Children’s Hospital from 10:30 a.m. to noon.

This story was originally published on April 23, 2015. Drag Illustrated

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