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Travis Shumake Pursues Funny Car Dream and History as First Openly Gay Driver

Second-generation Funny Car driver Travis Shumake, 36, is charting a quick path to being the first openly gay driver of an 11,000-horsepower Funny Car in the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA). Already a licensed Super Comp racer, Shumake made a major move towards fulfilling his dream on June 15, earning his Nostalgia Funny Car license at the Frank Hawley Driving School in Bradenton, Florida.

The New York City resident, who ironically does not own a passenger vehicle, is one step away from securing his professional Funny Car license and stepping into the history books as the first openly gay driver in the sport.

“Someone will be the first; it’s only a matter of time,” Shumake said. “I know my dad would be proud of me for breaking that barrier.”

Shumake grew up in drag racing as the son of the late Funny Car champion Tripp Shumake. His father was a dominant force in the 70s and 80s, winning multiple NHRA national events as a member of both the 5-second and the 250-mph clubs. Additionally, his mother Susie was a staple on the circuit and was recently inducted into the Arizona Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2018. Throughout his life Shumake has always felt the pull to get behind the wheel and compete at the highest level like his father.

“I was 15 when my father passed,” he said. “We were racing shifter karts together at the time and I thought my days in racing were over. For me, it’s always been Funny Car. That’s where I belong. I want this for my dad, and I want this for our sport.”

Drag racing has a long history of being a leader in diversity with female, African-American, and Hispanic world champions.

“Now is the time to show the world there is a place for gay competitors and fans in motorsports,” Shumake said.

Recognized as a “Future Gay Leader of America” by Advocate Magazine in 2005 and a Phoenix Business Journal’s 40 under 40 awardee, Shumake is an accomplished community and business leader. As a former foster parent and longtime advocate for LGBTQ+ homeless youth, he moved to New York City to continue his career as a non-profit executive in 2018.

“It’s Pride Month and I’m sure there are plenty of drivers out there who feel restrained to pursue their passion for motorsports because these waters haven’t been tested,” he said. “Corporate support of the LGBTQ+ community should be represented on the racetrack as well. Bringing new fans and sponsors to the fastest growing motorsport in the world is a win-win for everyone involved.”

His immediate racing plans include meeting with prospective sponsors to help secure seat time and pin down a championship caliber team. The goal for Shumake will be to finalize immediate sponsorship opportunities, earn his nitro Funny Car license and compete in a national event this year before making his full-time professional debut during the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series.

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This story was originally published on June 22, 2021. Drag Illustrated

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