TALLADEGA, Ala. (May 2, 2013) – NHRA Funny Car pioneer Don Schumacher was formally inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame Thursday evening during a black-tie gala event at the SPEED Dome adjacent to Talladega Motor Speedway. Schumacher joined a trio of NASCAR legends in the star-studded 2013 class, including team owner Rick Hendrick, crew chief Dale Inman and driver Rusty Wallace.
Schumacher, 68, is the 11th NHRA inductee into the prestigious Hall, which features among its members a distinguished roster of deserving drivers from all segments of motorsports, including Mario Andretti, Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty and A.J. Foyt, among others. The other NHRA inductees are Wally Parks (1992), Don Garlits (1997), Don Prudhomme (2000), Shirley Muldowney (2004), Joe Amato (2005), Bob Glidden (2005), Warren Johnson (2007), Bill Jenkins (2008), Kenny Bernstein (2012) and John Force (2012).
As a driver, Schumacher won five NHRA event titles, including the 1970 NHRA U.S. Nationals, however his greatest achievements in the sport have come as a team owner. Schumacher walked away from the sport in 1974 and focused on building his battery business, Schumacher Electric. The Chicago native returned to the sport in 1998 with son Tony as driver of a Top Fuel dragster and since then Schumacher's win total has soared to more than 200 victories. He has built one of the biggest teams in NHRA competition, currently fielding three Top Fuel dragsters and four Funny Cars in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
He was a first ballot selection by an international panel of motorsports journalists and historians. His son Tony, who has won 71 event titles and claimed seven NHRA Top Fuel world championships at the controls of the U.S. Army dragster, introduced his father for induction into the prestigious Hall.
"This is such a great honor," Don said. "I was overwhelmed just to be nominated. This is really overwhelming."
Schumacher's legacy in the sport will be remembered for bringing a business approach to drag racing, and for the many safety innovations he helped develop. A fierce match racer in the late 1960s and early '70s, he was one of the first drivers to secure sponsorship for his race teams. His Stardust and Wonder Bread Funny Cars are still among the most recognizable machines in NHRA history. In the pit area, he developed many engine, clutch and aerodynamic enhancements. Perhaps his most significant contribution to safety was his roof-mounted escape hatch, which has long been a mandatory requirement for every Funny Car.
Schumacher is the only team owner in NHRA history to win both nitro championships in the same season. He has accomplished that feat twice, in 2005 with son Tony (Top Fuel) and Gary Scelzi (Funny Car) and in 2012 with Antron Brown (Top Fuel) and Jack Beckman (Funny Car). In all, Schumacher owns 203 NHRA victories and 11 world championship titles.