2020 brought a great deal of pressure onto the sports world, and NHRA drag racing was no exception. Despite all of the unique challenges, Don Schumacher Racing enjoyed many bright spots both on and off the track throughout the year.
Heading into the final stretch of 2020, drag racing’s winningest organization reflects on a season dotted with many highlights:
Celebrating the final year of the Chandler family ‘giving car’ program –
Jack Beckman kicked off the 2020 NHRA season by racing the Doug Chandler-sponsored Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car to the winner’s circle at the first race of the year, igniting what would become an undefeated season for DSR’s Funny Car program. Aboard the MD Anderson Dodge, Tommy Johnson Jr. doubled-down on Beckman’s triumph by driving his Chandler family car to victory at the very next event in Phoenix, earning a win for the renowned cancer research and treatment center during only his second race bannering the cause.
Between the two of them, Beckman and Johnson won more than half of the 2020 Funny Car Wally trophies, earning six wins for the Chandler family over the course of the season. Both drivers were in the hunt for the 2020 series championship through the final day of the year, capping off an incredible seven-year run of the ‘giving car’ program, which included fundraising campaigns, trackside programs, and national exposure for the Infinite Hero Foundation, MD Anderson, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
DSR’S COVID-19 Relief Efforts –
After just two races, the NHRA season was halted in mid-March due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. DSR wasted no time jumping into action, and by the end of the month, DSM Precision Manufacturing (DSM) was utilizing its two Stratasys FDM 3D printers to churn out headbands that were used for medical face shields in healthcare facilities.
Recognizing the growing need in her own community, Leah Pruett sprang into action by committing to donate 100% of the proceeds of her Cameo sales to her local food pantry, the Havasu Community Health Foundation Food Bank, in mid-April. Thanks to fan support, Pruett was able to deliver a donation check in the amount of $2,025 to the nonprofit organization which helps to feed those in need in Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
Later that month, DSR launched a teamwide campaign where DSR’s roster of drivers joined more than 100 of the world’s most elite athletes and sports organizations in the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s ‘Athletes for COVID-19 Relief’ program. Drivers raided their closets and auctioned off authentic team-used apparel and gear to raise nearly $10,000 for the cause. DSR’s efforts helped to inspire other NHRA teams, including John Force Racing and Kalitta Motorsports, to join the cause. In total, more than $265,000 was raised by all participating athletes and teams.
Funny Car Win Streak –
After a four-and-a-half-month hiatus due to COVID-19, NHRA returned to action in early July, resuming the 2020 schedule with four consecutive fan-attended events at historic Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. At the first race back, Matt Hagan and the Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat team earned their first W of the season, extending DSR’s consecutive Funny Car win count to six, a streak Hagan and the Mopar team started back in October 2019 when they claimed victory at the annual Ennis, Texas event.
By the end of the 2020 season, DSR had gone 11-for-11 on the year and will start 2021 looking to add to its record-total of 14 straight Funny Car wins. DSR had previously held the NHRA record for number of consecutive team wins in a single category when the same line-up of drivers (Beckman, Ron Capps, Hagan, and Johnson) had gone 10-in-a-row in 2017.
A ‘Full House’ at Indy –
DSR welcomed back two NHRA legends and fan-favorites when Cory McClenathan and Tony Schumacher temporarily re-joined the drag racing powerhouse in July. At two of the four Indianapolis events, DSR campaigned 10 entries, fielding four Top Fuelers, four Funny Car teams, and two Factory Stock Showdown Dodge Drag Paks. McClenathan’s stint back behind the wheel of a Top Fuel dragster allowed him to reset his career-bests (3.731 seconds at 330.47 mph), and Schumacher’s return to the seat spurred a deal with DSR partners Okuma and Sandvik Coromant, which enabled him to compete at the final six events of the 2020 season and finish the year ranked in the Top 10.
Ron Capps Nabs Elusive First Indy Victory –
Admittedly, Ron Capps’ season got off to a rocky start. A trailer fire caused the team to miss pre-season testing, and they struggled to get their footing at the first two races of the year. When the NHRA season resumed in early July, Capps and his team seemed to be plagued by the same bad luck that had troubled them at the beginning of the year. But, thanks to their oft-touted ‘NAPA Know How,’ the team quickly regained their championship form, and at the Indy 3 event, aboard the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge, Capps turned on four win-lights. The victory allowed the 26-year NHRA nitro pilot to capture not only his first trophy of the season but his very first triumph at prestigious Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, a feat he had been attempting to accomplish for more than two decades.
Racing for Riley Kids –
DSR’s highly-anticipated annual tradition of hosting an Open House event on Friday of the U.S. Nationals race week was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions. The Open House, which would have been in its 15th year, is DSR’s largest annual fundraiser for the local Indianapolis organization, Riley Hospital for Children. DSR staff and drivers worked hard to ensure this year’s fundraising efforts would be a success despite the absence of an in-person Open House. Between virtual fundraisers which saw drivers auctioning off Zoom calls and memorabilia, and both an online and trackside silent auction at the U.S. Nationals, DSR was able to bring its current running total up to $738,000 raised for Riley Kids.
The annual ‘This is How we Roll’ bowling event to benefit Riley Kids is typically held in December ahead of PRI week. Because this year’s event was canceled due to COVID, DSR is currently donating a portion of proceeds of ALL eBay sales during the month of December to Riley. Bid on one-of-a-kind and memorabilia items here: https://www.ebay.com/str/donschumacherracing
DSR Achieves ‘350 Wins’ Milestone –
DSR entered the 2020 NHRA U.S. Nationals with 349 total wins, the most of any NHRA team. Beckman and Hagan duked it out on Saturday evening during the rescheduled Indy 2 final round to see who would claim the 350th win for the drag racing super team. Ultimately, Hagan came out on top, winning trophy No. 350 for DSR patriarch, Don Schumacher, who owns five of DSR’s total wins from his time behind the wheel of a Funny Car during the 1970s.
The next day, Beckman and Hagan would once again square off in the final round showdown, but for the U.S. Nationals hardware. This time it was Beckman who raced to the finish line first, capturing his second U.S. Nats victory and win No. 351 for DSR.
Double-Double to Finish the Season –
DSR’s four-car Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car program had been dominant all season long, preventing every other Funny Car team from finishing their day in the winner’s circle. At the final two events of the season, DSR’s Top Fuel dragsters joined in on the victory celebrations when Top Fuel’s winningest driver, Tony Schumacher, captured trophy No. 85 during the Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil in Baytown, Texas alongside Funny Car teammate and winner Tommy Johnson Jr., marking DSR’s first double-up of the year.
Antron Brown, who was named ‘Top Fuel Driver of the Decade’ by both AutoWeek and NHRA.com ahead of the 2020 season for his prowess behind the wheel throughout the 2010s, reunited with former crew chief Brian Corradi to start the season. The duo meticulously chipped away at their combination, and at the final race of the year, were able to enjoy the fruits of their labor when they raced to victory in Las Vegas. Brown shared the winner’s circle with Hagan, and celebrated double-up No. 67 for DSR.
A Banner Year for 2020 Funny Car Champ, Matt Hagan –
It’s safe to say no one’s year can compare to that of Matt Hagan’s. Just like his Top Fuel teammate, Hagan also kicked off his season after being awarded the title of ‘Funny Car Driver of the Decade’ by AutoWeek for his ability to masterfully maneuver his 11,000-horsepower Dodge Hellcat over the course of the 2010s.
Hagan began his 2020 campaign with a pair of pole positions at the first two races of the season. After the March – July COVID-pause, Hagan powered to victory at the first race back, successfully extending DSR’s Funny Car undefeated streak, a streak he himself had started in October 2019. He then went on to win the prestigious 350th victory for DSR before going wire-to-wire at the Dodge NHRA Finals presented by Pennzoil, where he not only won the event trophy but was crowned the 2020 NHRA Camping World Funny Car champion. With his event win, Hagan ensured DSR went undefeated on the year, and ‘swept the season,’ securing a total shut-out by the DSR Dodge Charger Funny Car pilots. By winning the ‘big’ trophy for the third time in his career, Hagan earned DSR its 18th championship overall, and the team’s sixth Funny Car title. With three Funny Car championships, Hagan ranks fourth (tied with Raymond Beadle and Robert Hight) for number of championships by an NHRA Funny Car driver.