CHICAGO — There’s a lot of hype around a race returning to Windy City in 2023, but there’s another one that’s also on its way back.
In fact, it will include a driver who grew up in the area.
Tony Schumacher, who was born in California but spent most of his childhood in Park Ridge, is among the riders returning to Chicago for May’s Camping World National Hot Rod Association event at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet.
The Route 66 NHRA National Championships will take place May 19-21 and is the first event at the venue since 2019. It is one of 21 events in North America’s premier drag racing series over the course of their 2023 season.
Joliet’s run for the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was not on the schedule in 2021 or 2022. Now that she’s back in 2023, it’s quite an exciting time to Schumacher, who spent much of his childhood and adolescence in Park Ridge.
“My dad, who also grew up in Park Ridge, in the same house, had a race car shop there,” Schumacher said in a chat with WGN News Now ahead of the event. “So the friends that we made in that particular race, not just when we were racing, but even before that. With that race car shop, being there in Park Ridge, ‘Big Daddy’ Don Garlits, Tommy Ivo and Shirley (Muldowney), and “Blue Max”, and all the people who needed to paint their cars, were working on something used that.”
Schumacher has certainly enjoyed success at his home track as he has won five events at Route 66 Raceway, the last in 2015. Arguably one of the greatest drag racers in the history of the sport, Schumacher has eight Top Fuel titles and 86 total wins. in the NHRA.
His return to Chicago comes in a new era for the driver, who was without a race from 2019 to 2021 after the U.S. military surprisingly dropped its longtime sponsorship in 2018. In 2022, Schumacher was back after securing sponsorship with SCAG Power Equipment. until 2025.
This gave him the chance to compete at Route 66 Raceway again, an opportunity he hoped to have again.
“When it disappeared five years ago it was terrible for us. Besides the difficulty, as you can probably imagine, of getting tickets to your home circuit for your friends, other than that little part, the wins were so big, so big,” Schumacher said. “The losses were so devastating on that track because you have so many friends and family there.
“It’s a stadium, man. They have built a very nice circuit and we are delighted to see them again.
You can see more of Tony Schumacher’s interview with Larry Hawley on WGN News Now in the video above.