Don Schumacher Racing is looking a lot different for the NHRA’s 2022 Camping World Drag Racing Series. With a single team in Top Fuel, none in Funny Car, Schumacher won’t have the gaudy looks we’ve all been accustomed to since the now 77-year-old Schumacher returned to the pits in 1998 after building his Schumacher Electric company outside Chicago.
Schumacher was gone for 24 years, but he returned to fashion a Top Fuel team for son Tony, who would take the 1999 title en route to a total of eight national championships and 85 national event victories in the dragster class. This year, he’ll be the sole Camping World entry from 19-time championship winners DSR, which has seen both of its 2021 Top Fuel combatants go their separate ways: Antron Brown started his own team and Leah Pruett joined husband Tony Stewart’s two-car squad.
There won’t be a single Funny Car entry from DSR in the 22-race campaign. Reigning titleholder Ron Capps, who secured his second title with DSR this past year, is starting his own team, too. Three-time champ Matt Hagan has joined Pruett on the Tony Stewart Racing team. Former drivers Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr., both of whom came close to championships in 2020 with DSR, lost sponsorship and, therefore, their positions. Neither has been racing consistently, although Johnson Jr. did sub for COVID-stricken Hagan last year, earning a single win for the Virginian.
But there’s more to this than presence on the track. Both Brown and Capps are using space in the huge DSR compound close to Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park. And there’s always the Factory Stock Showdown program with Dodge, which Schumacher is expanding to a three-car entry.
While Pruett, the first champion in the FSS class, won’t be driving in that category for Schumacher this year, he does have the returning former Pro Stock standout Mark Pawuk, David Davies, who joined the team last year and new 2021 Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak racer Warren Walcher as three formidable combatants in the Constant Aviation-sponsored manufacturer class.
There are eight FSS events, starting at the NHRA Gatornationals in March. All three Don Schumacher Racing drivers, Davies, Pawuk and Walcher use a DSR engine and drivetrain, tuned and maintained by co-crew chiefs Kevin Helms and A.J. Berge. While Walcher may be new to FSS, having attained his license in the season finale for the class at Las Vegas last fall, he’s been active in NHRA’s Sportsman ranks before coming to FSS last year.
Walcher recently sold his multi-store Valvoline Instant Oil Change franchise operation, in order to turn his full attention to a challenge for the FSS championship. “DSR,” he said, “is the best-of-the-best. It was really a no-brainer for me to make the decision to have DSR manage my Drag Pak program when I decided I wanted to take this full-time. I watched the team in Vegas last year, and was very impressed overall.”
Don Schumacher Racing has, since beginning its single-car operation two decades ago, always presented a formidable offense, no matter the class or the driver. That won’t change with a single Top Fuel race car for Tony Schumacher, with support from the Maynard Family and Scag Power Equipment. That won’t change with a three-car Dodge Factory Stock Showdown attack. In essence, it’s a return to where Schumacher started his car ownership travels.
DSR should be lean, mean and ready to add to its 366 Wally winner’s trophies. It just won’t be as large as the operation fans and racers have come to expect. Don will be at the track when his scheduling allows and he’ll continue to mentor daughter Megan, who is primed to take over the racing arm when and if Don decides to retire. In the meantime, the only reason Don Schumacher Racing will go to an NHRA race is to win, whether in Top Fuel or in Factory Stock Showdown. And that fact alone should excite racing fans.