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Tony Schumacher Honored Late Father with ‘Don Schumacher’ Tribute Car in Chicago

A meaningful weekend at the NHRA Route 66 Nationals at Route 66 Raceway came to an end in the first round Sunday for eight-time NHRA Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher. The Chicagoland native turned Austin, Texas, transplant paid tribute to his late father, iconic team owner and former driver Don Schumacher, with a special livery on his JCM Racing Top Fuel dragster. It was Schumacher’s first time back at the family’s home track since his father passed in December following a hard-fought cancer battle.

Before on-track action began on Friday, Schumacher unveiled the special JCM Racing ‘Don Schumacher’ tribute dragster during a Celebration of Life ceremony hosted by the Schumacher family. The livery paid homage to the 1970 Plymouth Funny Car the elder Schumacher piloted when he won the NHRA U.S. Nationals that same year. 

In the first qualifying session, Schumacher just missed out on bonus points when he posted a 3.855 E.T. at 324.83 MPH to go straight to the No. 4 spot. Schumacher and co-crew chiefs Mike Neff and Jon Schaffer stepped up to a 3.779 E.T. at 328.22 MPH in the favorable conditions that Friday evening’s second session presented. He struggled to get down the track in the hot conditions during Saturday’s two qualifying sessions, but the 3.779-second effort from Friday put Schumacher in the No. 8 position on the final qualifying order.

Schumacher paired up with No. 9 qualifier Dan Mercier in the first pair of the opening round of eliminations on Sunday morning. The five-time Chicago winner took a slight starting line advantage over Mercier, but he lost that advantage by the time the two reached the finish line. Schumacher finished with a 3.967 E.T. to Mercier’s 3.876 E.T. He attributed the downturn in performance to an issue with the burnout.

“We’re trying to use all our bad luck up at the beginning of the year,” Schumacher said. “That’s a really unfortunate one because we literally murdered it on the burnout. I rolled too far forward. When I hit the throttle, it just didn’t spin the tires, which heats up the clutch. It was still on a nice run, but it locked the clutch up and spun the tires a little bit. Those are the runs where you need the other guy to suffer and have a problem, but he didn’t and went out and beat me. Thankfully, the guys are doing a great job. The car really performed well this weekend. You end up doing something stupid like that and it cost us the race. We’ll learn from it.”

While Schumacher never lacks motivation to turn on win lights, he had a little extra drive and determination to put the JCM Racing dragster in the winner’s circle at Chicago. He wanted to get another win in memory of his father.

“It was just a fantastic weekend with all the friends and family and everyone from Schumacher Electric and all the people that loved my dad so much,” Schumacher said. “It was nice to hear all the thankfulness that people gave from him guiding them through this racing world. It was just awesome to represent him with this tribute car. I can’t believe we didn’t win this trophy.”

Schumacher and the JCM Racing Top Fuel team will continue the pursuit for their first win of the season May 31-June 2 at the NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway, where Schumacher was the 2024 event runner-up.

This story was originally published on May 20, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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