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Schumacher: Brownsburg ‘the anchor of drag racing’

Schumacher: Brownsburg ‘the anchor of drag racing’

DSR celebrates 20 years in business, how it came to Hendricks County

Whether or not you’re a fan of motorsports, you have probably heard of Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) headquartered a few miles west of Lucas Oil Raceway on Northfield Drive in Brownsburg, an area Schumacher called “the anchor of drag racing.” Locally, DSR employs 135 people from its 145,000-square-foot facility. It’s also the top supplier and manufacturer of drag racing parts in the Indianapolis area. DSR is celebrating 20 years in business this Labor Day Weekend, and the story behind its birth is rooted in the same values that Hendricks County residents hold sacred: family and community.

Don “Shoe” Schumacher raced in the early 70s, an era with names like Don ‘Big Daddy’ Garlits, Shirley ‘Cha Cha’ Muldowney and Don ‘The Snake’ Prudhomme. He retired in 1974 to take over the family business, Schumacher Electric Corp., but not before winning five NHRA national events, including the 1970 U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis.

Schumacher said the decision to return as an owner came 24 years later when he teamed up with his son, Tony Schumacher, currently the all-time winningest driver in Top Fuel.

“Tony came to me and said, ‘Come on dad, find a sponsor and let’s go racing,’” he remembers. “We literally built a team and car in a month… Then the first race that Tony ran it in was in Indianapolis. We did okay and he ran it the rest of that year, but our first race was in Indianapolis over Labor Day Weekend.”

DSR’s first location was not in Brownsburg, however, and dwarfs in comparison to the current facility on Northfield Drive. DSR vice president, Mike Lewis, Avon, has been with the team since its early days in West Indianapolis.

“I thought it was going to be a one-car team,” said Lewis. “It was based over on Girls School Road. Andy Evans, IndyCar driver and team owner, had a small 5,000-foot bay, and that’s where all of this started.”

As the team grew, Schumacher searched for the right place to set up headquarters. According to DSR Top Fuel driver, Antron Brown, Pittsboro, it didn’t take long for Schumacher to choose Brownsburg.

“I talked to Don when we used to be over on 38th Street and he was looking for a place to move to build his premier shop,” Brown said. “And when we came and looked at Brownsburg, there was no second thought, like this is where we need to be. Brownsburg is drag racing and drag racing is Brownsburg.”

Both Schumacher and Lewis said there were a lot of advantages to setting up shop in Hendricks County. One reason was, of course, the support of an existing race industry.

“In Indianapolis, because of IndyCar manufacturers, there were carbon fiber shops, aluminum shops, machinists, craftsmen; there were a lot of reasons to locate in Brownsburg. It’s a great place to do business and a wonderful community. And because of the support that you get from the city and the community, it has really turned into the anchor for drag racing,” Schumacher said.

Schumacher said the sport he returned to as an owner looked different from his driving days.

“It had changed drastically. Now, it was now really a full-fledged business. You had to have sponsors supporting you to be able to go out and run these cars. Of course, you had to have a lot of available funds. It was just different with corporations being involved… Back in the 70s, I was being sponsored with Wonder Bread. That was a real eye-opener for me back then because it turned from being something that we did from our heart to being a business…”

But that hasn’t stopped DSR from winning 330 NHRA national event titles and 16 world championships over the last 20 years. And while a few more titles at U.S. Nationals would be a fine way to cap off two-decades, it’s what DSR has accomplished off the track that Schumacher holds in the highest regard.

When asked what makes him most proud, he said “being able to provide a lifestyle for all my employees and their families. I’m thrilled with the support I have received from the community, and thrilled with the things that I have been able to do for the community.”

To date, DSR has also raised over $500,000 for Riley Hospital for Children.

It seems the 72-year-old racing pioneer is still driving from the heart.

Story by Chris Cornwall

Meet your local DSR drivers

Compiled by Faith Toole

We caught up with three local DSR drivers at this year’s Big Go Block Party in Brownsburg. Like many of the folks who live in Hendricks County, they are first-generation residents. We wanted to know what they thought about life here, both personally and professionally.

Editor’s note: The following responses were edited for length.

Tommy Johnson Jr., Funny Car driver, Avon

“I moved here almost 18 years ago. When the drag racing teams started relocating to the Brownsburg area, I wanted to be here. I like the atmosphere, it’s geared toward motorsports and the people support it. I came from Iowa so it felt like home as soon as I moved here. It’s the same downhome, Midwestern people like where I came from. Now that more of us have moved here, there are a lot more people in the community that know about drag racing. Like when you go some place to eat, they’ll tell you they watched the race last weekend. And that’s the neat part, just being able to come home to that.

Leah Pritchett, Top Fuel driver, Avon

“It’s the heart and soul of drag racing, and that’s where my heart and soul is. Even being from Southern California, and now being able to live here, it’s a big deal. Professionally, it’s lived up to every expectation I had. Personally, I had no expectations. I never had the chance to live in the Midwest. But now that I’ve been a resident in Hendricks County for seven years, I’m extremely impressed with not only the culture, but the way the county embraces drag racing, and consider us as one of their own. A lot of us are transplants, but like I said, they not only accept us but embrace us…I also love Kingsway Church. When I get home after being gone 300 days a year, Kingsway is where I call home.”

Antron Brown, Top Fuel driver, Pittsboro

“I came to visit Brownsburg in the late 90s, and when I did there was nothing there. I was staying there on Country Club Road., on the outskirts of Indianapolis by 10th Street, and I remember distinctly Dave Schultz brought me out to Bethesda Baptist Church right off C.R. 600 in Brownsburg. There was nothing around it but fields, and I Iooked at him like, where are you taking me. But I looked again and there was this oasis of fields and a small-town feel and culture. And literally three years later, I moved right to that same location, right off that same street. The best part is that it’s the perfect place to bring your family, and the community is all about caring. Everybody always greets you with a smile. At the end of the day, that’s where you want to be. You want to be with a big family. That’s the way I look at Brownsburg.”

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