Don Schumacher, a drag racing legend who started his own race team, died on Wednesday after a battle with lung cancer, the National Hot Rod Association announced. He was 79.
The NHRA said Schumacher suffered illness-related complications. The organization announced his death on Thursday. Don Schumacher Racing also announced his death on X.
"It is with heavy hearts that the Schumacher family announce the passing of motorsports icon Don Schumacher," the team wrote.
Schumacher was a top Funny Car driver in the 1960s and 1970s but left the sport altogether in the early 1970s to help grow Schumacher Electric. The company turned into a massive success with plants across the globe, including the U.S., China, Mexico and Belgium. The company produces battery chargers, testers, maintainers, jump starters, portable power, lithium and electric vehicle charging.
He returned to NHRA Drag Racing in 1998 and built a team with his son, Tony. The group made its debut at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis in 1998 and immediately turned into a powerhouse.
"His teams have amassed 19 NHRA world championship titles and 367 Wally trophies, including the five he won while behind the wheel of a Funny Car," a blog post on his team site read. "During his driving career, he contributed cutting-edge safety innovations for the new Funny Car category including a roof-mounted escape hatch that allowed drivers to quickly exit when all-too-frequent fires occurred. He was also the first to mount the lever that activated a fire suppression system on his Funny Car’s brake handle so the driver could apply both while keeping one hand on the steering wheel.
"As a team owner, he funded and spearheaded a project to develop a protective, enclosed canopy for Top Fuel dragsters, which has since been adopted by multiple NHRA teams. Schumacher was also intent on utilizing his team’s fleet of race cars to raise money and awareness for various charities.
"Each year ahead of the U.S. Nationals, DSR hosts a pre-race event at its Brownsburg, Ind., headquarters to benefit Riley Hospital for Children, and for seven seasons, Schumacher, along with Terry and Doug Chandler, campaigned ‘giving cars.’ The program enabled nonprofits, such as the Infinite Hero Foundation, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and MD Anderson Cancer Center to be recognized through a dedicated tribute livery at no cost to the organization. The impact Schumacher had both on and off the race track is undeniable."
The team said a celebration of life ceremony will be held at a later date.