Top Fuel Driver Massey Dumped By Schumacher
By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
Black Friday was no career bargain for NHRA Top Fuel driver Spencer Massey, who was unceremoniously released by Don Schumacher Racing 12 days after finishing third in the 2012 Countdown to the Championship point chase.
Team-owner Don Schumacher announced Massey’s termination in a terse release emailed to media at 6 p.m. (CST) from the team’s headquarters in Brownsburg, Ind. The release stated that Massey “is no longer part of Don Schumacher Racing effective immediately.”
Massey finished 50 points, or less than three rounds of racing, behind teammate/first-time Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown following eliminations during the season-ending Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Pomona on Nov. 11. DSR’s Tony Schumacher, a seven-time world champion and Don Schumacher’s son, finished as championship runner-up – seven points behind Brown and 43 ahead of Massey after the six-race playoff schedule.
“I appreciate what Spencer did for us the past two years, but I have decided to go in a different direction,” Don Schumacher said in the release. “I wish Spencer all the luck in the world and hope he returns to driving next season in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.”
The release stated that Don Schumacher would not be available for further comment. Meanwhile, a phone call to Massey for comment Friday evening by RacinToday.com was not immediately returned.
Massey opened final eliminations at Pomona earlier this month by trailering point-leader Brown and his Mac Tools dragster, which broke a fuel line. Massey’s title hopes were ended in Round 2 by Brandon Bernstein, who went on to win the event. Massey posted a 45-19 won/loss record in 2012, second only to Brown’s 49-17 overall mark and six wins.
Despite the disappointment, Massey gave no hint that his job was in jeopardy heading into the short offseason. “We really tried to win this championship,” Massey said post-race. “Hats off to all of my guys. Just to be in the fight on Sunday at the World Finals is awesome. I’m ecstatic to get out here next year and try for it again. It’s disappointing but we are not hanging our heads low because we did have an incredible season. We won four races, the (NHRA Traxxas Nitro) Shootout and came here with a chance.
“It’s going to make us that much hungrier to try and do it next year. I can’t wait to get out here and try it again. Hopefully, we can come out swinging.”
Massey’s four wins included the 2012 season-opening O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals at Pomona in the FRAM/Prestone dragster tuned by crew chiefs Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler. That win in February came three months after Massey finished second to 2011 world champion Del Worsham by 58 points, the result of a loss in the semifinals to Worsham by 0.004-seconds. Massey also won four national events in 2011 for DSR.
Massey, 30, exited DSR holding the national speed record in Top Fuel, a 1,000-foot run at 332.18 mph set during the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C., on April 15.
Massey’s team went into the offseason searching for a primary sponsor, as Schumacher announced on June 18 that marketing partner FRAM Group LLC of Perrysburg, Ohio, and FRAM/Prestone would not return for the 2013 season. DSR’s partnership with FRAM/Prestone began in 2007 with popular veteran driver Cory McClenathan, who officially was replaced by Massey on Nov. 29, 2010 _ reportedly at the insistence of the sponsor’s marketing team.
DSR’s signing of Massey ended a one-year hiatus from the NHRA’s Top Fuel ranks for the resident of Fort Worth, Texas. Massey won two national events driving for NHRA legend Don “The Snake” Prudhomme in 2009 en route to a sixth-place point finish. Massey earned the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award, recognizing the sanctioning body’s top rookie.
But Massey was left without a ride in January 2010, when Prudhomme decided to shut down his team due to a lack of corporate sponsorship. Prudhomme was blindsided in late August 2009 when officials from U.S. Tobacco announced the company would end its 23-year association with him at season’s end. Prudhomme had been a team-owner for 15 years.
Massey’s 2009 season was the first of a two-year contract, and option for 2011, with Snake Racing. But the contract included an escape clause that voided the agreement if Prudhomme did not have funding for the entire 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series schedule.
Massey was the only NHRA professional rookie to win at least one race in 2009. He posted a 32-21 won/loss record and an average reaction time of 0.054-seconds. The 2008 IHRA Top Fuel champion in a car fielded by Mitch King, Massey spent the 2010 season competing in IHRA match races and looking for another NHRA nitro ride.
“I got hooked on nitro and tire-smoke as a kid,” Massey told RacinToday.com during a previous interview. “Growing up in Texas, Eddie Hill was my idol.” Hill, of Wichita Falls, Texas, clinched the NHRA Top Fuel championship in 1993 at Billy Meyer’s Texas Motorplex in Ennis.
Massey’s road to the cockpit began as a crew chief for Scott Palmer’s NHRA Top Fuel team (2001-04). He also crewed for Ashley Force Hood’s Top Alcohol Dragster (2004) and Morgan Lucas’ TAD team (2005).
Massey’s driving career began in the NHRA’s Jr. Drag Racing League. He graduated from local Bracket racing into NHRA and IHRA Top Alcohol Dragsters (2006-08), winning the NHRA’s Division 4 TAD title in ’06 and the Jegs All-Stars championship in TAD in 2007. Moving up to IHRA Top Fuel dragsters, Massey claimed the 2008 championship in a season that included four wins in five final rounds out of 10 races.
DSR fields seven professional NHRA teams – the aforementioned three in Top Fuel and the Dodge Charger R/T Funny Cars driven by 2012 world champion Jack Beckman, 2011 world champion Matt Hagan, Ron Capps and Johnny Gray. DSR has won 196 NHRA national event titles and 11 world championships.
– John Sturbin can be reached at email@example.com Comments