Marketing partnerships come and go. Oftentimes they can last a decade, two or even more. In NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series history, there have been many long-term sponsorships, none longer than Kenny Bernstein’s 30-year agreement with Budweiser (his parting gift was a Clydesdale horse).
The U.S. Army has been part of Don Schumacher Racing’s team and has had a marketing presence with NHRA for almost 20 years. As of next year, that relationship is ending. Not only has the Army sponsored eight-time Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher nearly the breadth of his career, they’ve also had a huge presence in NHRA’s Manufacturer Midway.
It’s never unusual to see possible enlistees trying their hands at the Army’s obstacle course or discussing possible enlistment throughout a Mello Yello weekend, but the U.S. Army has made a tactical decision to move its marketing money elsewhere. For instance, there was a large U.S. Army presence at the Dew Tour Long Beach skateboard competition and festival as June ended and July began.
“The U.S. Army has been an incredibly loyal and longtime supporter of NHRA Championship Drag Racing and we are sad to see them go,” said NHRA president Glen Cromwell, “especially during a time in which NHRA is experiencing so much success.
“One of the most significant elements of our partnership has been its sponsorship of NHRA’s Youth and Education Services program, which hosts approximately 30,000 high school students each year across the country – and will continue to do so. Not only does this program serve our communities by inspiring students to pursue STEM-related career opportunities,” Cromwell continued, “but it also acts as a powerful recruiting tool for vocational education programs.”
The U.S. Army will honor its commitments to both NHRA and Don Schumacher Racing throughout the balance of the season to its Countdown to the Championship finale in November at Pomona.
The largest of the Armed Forces has been particularly successful with its sponsorship of Tony Schumacher, who has proudly projected the posture of a military attache in his daily work. Schumacher’s attentiveness to his duties on behalf of the U.S. Army continue strongly. He’s carried the sobriquet “The Sarge” through the U.S. Army partnership.
(The first time Schumacher and I met was early in the partnership at a Motor Press Guild function at California’s Willow Springs Raceway near Edwards Air Force Base. Schumacher was attending the media function on behalf of the U.S. Army and explained he understood the responsibility he was undertaking. Not only did he need to win, he stated, he needed to represent the service and the country.)
“The U.S. Army has been a great partner of Don Schumacher Racing for nearly two decades,” said Don Schumacher, owner of the team that bears his name. “It has been a mutually beneficial relationship with the U.S. Army, instilling the mental, physical and emotional strength of the U.S. Army soldier in all of us. We remain extremely proud of our representation of the U.S. Army and its brave soldiers, who are 100 percent committed to our country.
“We will continue to activate on behalf of the U.S. Army for the remainder of 2018 while showcasing our acumen to future partners looking to inject their brand with the power and precision that has earned DSR more than 320 wins (325 total) and 16 championships,” Schumacher continued.
Tony Schumacher, who began his professional career in 1996, is the winningest Top Fuel driver in NHRA history with 83 National event trophies, and has earned seven of his eight World Titles behind the wheel of the U.S. Army car. Schumacher has a single victory in 13 of 24 races in the 2018 season, at Bristol, Tenn. in June; he lies second in points behind leader and NHRA New England Nationals victor Steve Torrence.