The only major development since season’s end was the hiring of veteran crew chief Rob Flynn to lead Jack Beckman’s Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car team.
This year has flown by faster than a Don Schumacher Racing Funny Car or Top Fuel Dragster, and while Santa’s elves will be busy next week the DSR staff will be gin to slow down a little before a short respite before 2014 ushers in a new year. But it has been a busy off season at Don’s Workshop in Indiana.
Johnson joined DSR teammate Antron Brown early this week for private testing sessions at Palm Beach International Raceway in Florida when temperatures outside the DSR shop were in the 20s compared to the 80s at West Palm Beach.
Before those teams headed south, DSR drivers visited race headquarters outside Indianapolis for photo shoots in new driving suits alongside newly adorned race cars. Noted sports photographer Mark Rebilas braved wintery weather the Arizonan is not accustomed to and provided DSR and its sponsors with images only he can envision.
None were better than his late - night, outdoor photos of the Valvoline Dodge during a heavy snow. And none were better than when DSR merchandise manager Kyle Cunningham substituted for Beckman to make a snow angel in the photo above. There were other of DSR’s milestones and highlights .
Nothing could to p DSR reaching the rarefied air of winning its 200th NHRA national event title on March 17 when Antron Brown drove the Matco Tools dragster to the winners circle of the Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla. And No. 200 wouldn’t have happened on that day were it not for Gray in the Pitch Energy Dodge Charger R/T winning in the Funny Car final just a few minutes before.
The double - up by Gray and Brown was one of six times this year when DSR swept the nitro titles at the same event. That brings the total of events when DSR won multiple titles at the same race to 40 since 2003. The year also marked a record number of NHRA Wally trophies carted back to headquarters with 23 titles pushing DSR’s total to 219 since 1970 and 214 over the past 14 seasons.
Those accomplishments by DSR owner Don Schumacher contributed to his induction on May 2 into the prestigious International Motorsports Hall of Fame at Talladega, Ala., where NASCAR’s Rusty Wallace, Rick Hendrick and Dale Inman also were in the class. During the U.S. Nationals over Labor Day Weekend, Jack Beckman and the Valvoline/ MTS team won the $100,000 Traxxas Shootout for Funny Cars.
The event kicked off with another successful DSR Open House that raised $26,000 to benefit Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health and Camp Riley. That pushed DSR’s contribution to Riley to over $225,000 in the past eight years. The greatest team accomplishment this year at DSR was the turnaround by the Mopar/Rocky Boots Dodge driven by 2011 world champion Matt Hagan.
Veteran crew chief Dickie Venables took over the team a couple weeks before the season opened and led Hagan to five win s in nine championship rounds and five poles after the team went through 2012 without winning a trophy or pole and missing the NHRA Countdown to the Championship.
The team also set the NHRA speed record at the last of 24 events when it reached 320.66 mph in the championship round victory at Pomona, Calif. , where assistant crew chief Michael Kundsen ran the team while Venables was home in Indiana recovering from surgery.
DSR’s reigning world champions, Brown and Jack Beckman, made a late surge and finished second and third, respectively, in championship points in Top Fuel and Funny Car. There were major high lights away from the track including Don’s latest Hall of Fame induction. In January, Brown featured on NBC’s Today show for his inclusion on “ The Grio’s 100 list that features African - American industry, sports and community leaders .
Then in September, Brown was honored at the Waldorf - Astoria in New York City along with Terry Bradshaw , James Worthy, Dave Winfield, Nick Faldo and other renowned athletes at the 28th annual Great Sports Legends Dinner to benefit The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis.
And now, the countdown is underway for Jan. 15 - 18 testing at Palm Beach Internati onal Raceway and then the Feb. 7 - 9 opener at Pomona, Calif.