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Don Schumacher, a legendary NHRA team owner and one of the most influential figures in drag racing, died Wednesday from complications of a private battle with lung cancer. He was 79.

Schumacher began his career as a Funny Car match racer in the 1960s and 70s, fielding multiple entries for top drivers as the owner of Stardust Funny Cars. Schumacher would then leave the sport to focus on growing his business, Schumacher Electric, before returning to the NHRA in 1998 alongside son Tony Schumacher.

Don Schumacher Racing won its first championship in 1999 only one year after making its debut at the 1998 U.S. Nationals, and quickly grew the program into a powerhouse that is among the best to have ever competed in drag racing. Schumacher's teams have won 19 NHRA world championships and 367 Wally trophies, five of which were earned with Schumacher himself behind the wheel.

Schumacher is also credited with introducing several safety innovations to Funny Cars. During his driving career, Schumacher introduced a roof-mounted escape hatch so that drivers could quickly exit their car in the event of a fire, and he also created a lever on his cars' brake handles to activate a fire-suppression system so that a driver could apply both while keeping one hand on the steering wheel. Later, Schumacher would spearhead a project to develop a protective, enclosed canopy for Top Fuel dragsters.

Schumacher earned many accolades in recognition of his career and his contributions to motorsports, including the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. In 2022, Schumacher was honored by the NHRA with the sport's Lifetime Achievement Award.

Memorial arrangements for Don Schumacher, including a celebration of life ceremony, will be announced at a later date.