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Frank Hawley

Written by Ainsley Jacobs

In drag racing, Tripp Shumake’s name is synonymous with success. A member of both the Cragar Five-Second Club and Crane Cams Funny Car 250-mph Club, a two-time NHRA Funny Car national event winner, and the fourth man in history to drive a Funny Car over 250 mph, Tripp never hesitated to pursue his dreams. Now, with the help of Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School, Tripp’s son, Travis, is following in his father’s footsteps as he pursues his own drag racing career while also seeking to be the first openly gay pilot of a 10,000+ horsepower Nitro Funny Car.

Although Travis only saw Tripp race a handful of times as his father’s career was already well established before he was born in 1984, he got to enjoy witnessing the celebrity status that came with his father’s achievements. “I always knew he was famous, and as a kid I remember it being normal to just walk behind the ropes and into someone’s pit and trailer which other fans would consider a VIP experience,” Travis recalled of his youth spent hanging out with legends like John Force and Frank Hawley.

Travis was destined to find his niche in racing, just like his father, and began chasing speed when he was young. “My dad wanted to bond with me, so we started racing shifter karts when I was 12,” shared Travis, now 36 years old, of the memories the men made together. Tragically, though, Tripp lost his life in 1999 when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver while riding his motorcycle near the family’s home in Arizona.

After such a devastating loss, Travis stopped pursuing his karting career but still had a strong love for drag racing. He had loved spending long nights in the garage with his dad working on Paula Martin’s Funny Car, and toyed with the idea of rekindling his involvement in the sport.

“I always knew this was going to be a thing, it was just a question of when,” he asserted confidently. While at the track in Gainesville, Florida, in the spring of 2020, Travis was inspired by hearing some friends reminisce about his father and he became more motivated to reconnect with that side of his heritage. However, one of those conversations also coincided with the question of how to bring more diversity and inclusion to drag racing. “We were talking about getting five drivers to put a small rainbow sticker on their car in June for Pride month and I said… or I could just become the first gay drag racer and do it myself. The decision had been made!”

A few short days later, Travis had put a plan in motion with an eventual goal of racing Nitro Funny Cars. To start, he contacted his father’s longtime friend and two-time NHRA Funny Car World Champion, Frank Hawley, and arranged to attend Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School in May of 2021 to obtain his NHRA Super Comp license.

“It was a wonderful experience overall and the entire class of 16 students was very supportive of one other,” said Travis, who especially enjoyed the biomechanics lessons and visual acuity tests that were a part of his studies at the School as well as different techniques to focus his mind. “Frank taught me that simple isn’t the same as easy and that the most skilled part of driving a fast car is when it’s at its slowest speeds.”

Travis showed tremendous talent during his time at Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School and clocked consistently quick reaction times, just like his father used to do. Moving forward with his plan of one day piloting a Nitro Funny Car, he returned to the School to make his first passes in a true Funny Car and obtain his NHRA Nostalgia Funny Car license.

On June 15, Travis traveled from his home in New York City and arrived at Florida’s Bradenton Motorsports Park ready to get down to business. His first challenge was simply learning how to get into the Funny Car itself, as his 6’4” height made it a bit of a challenge – especially while fully dressed in a fire suit, helmet, HANS device, and other accessories.

“Firing up the car for the first time, though, now that was exciting. Sitting behind the engine and seeing the first puffs of smoke come out of the headers was one of the things I’ve waited my whole life to experience,” noted the man about his drag racing bucket list.

Getting to spend a full day working one-on-one with Frank Hawley, instead of in a shared classroom environment with the Super Comp course, was instrumental to Travis’s triumphs during his Funny Car experience. From staging to launching and learning to control the center-steer machine to the 1,000-foot mark and finally popping the parachute for the first time, Travis couldn’t stop smiling.

“My biggest challenge was keeping the car in the groove. Frank kept telling me not to wait until half-track to start steering, but the first one or two seconds I’d get thrown back in the seat and the clutch dust would come up and everything was vibrating so it was almost over by the time I felt fully in control,” laughed the rookie racer.

By day’s end, Travis had successfully completed his NHRA Nostalgia Funny Car licensure and was already planning his return to continue pursuing his NHRA Nitro Funny car credentials as well.

“Over the years, we’ve had many second-generation drivers come through the school, but having Tripp and Susie Shumake’s son Travis attend was really special. Maybe the ability to drive race cars is genetic, because Travis did a great job,” shared Hawley, who remembers his good friend and Travis’s father as one of the best Funny Car drivers of all time.

“Driving one of these cars is a skill, and I’m going to continue to develop that so I can pursue my Nitro career,” affirmed Travis, who has a goal of competing in the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series while making history as the first openly gay Nitro Funny Car driver. “We’re doing this y’all, so get on board!”

By day, Travis works as an executive at the NYC-based Clinton Foundation nonprofit organization and has tremendous experience in fundraising, public relations, brand management, and media/marketing. The skills that he has developed so solidly during his professional career, coupled with his strengths as an LGBTQ+ activist, will undoubtedly aid him as he pursues financial backing and partnerships for his drag racing initiative.

“This is an opportunity to bring both the LGBTQ+ dollar and fans into drag racing. People in the sport aren’t against it, there just hasn’t been an opportunity to show support before, so I am taking on the challenge,” he shared. “Drag racing has always been ahead of the curve in diversity, so this just feels like another logical milestone to accomplish before other racing leagues, like we always do.”

Travis’s experiences at Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School, and throughout his journey towards competing at the highest level of the sport, have allowed him to deepen his understanding of and passion for drag racing that shaped his relationship with his father.

“I wish he could be here to see me doing this, but, if he was, I think I’d have already been doing it years ago,” added Travis who is excited to explore the genetic connection between him and his father. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep that quick Shumake foot on the throttle through the lights, just like he used to do, with a little less fire and a lot more speed to continue his legacy.”

For the first time in a couple of decades, Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing school will be visiting the famed Famoso Raceway. This October, Hawley and his team will bring their show to the historic Bakersfield raceway.

“Years ago, when we first started the school, our first road trip away from our home track in Gainesville, FL was to Bakersfield,” said school founder Frank Hawley.  “The track has such amazing history. When I was a kid, I had pictures on my bedroom wall of all the famous drivers of the era racing at the March Meet in Bakersfield. This is one of the longest operating dragstrips in the country and we’re excited to be holding classes there.” said Hawley.

The Bowser family has kept pace with the speeds of today’s race cars and has continued to make improvements to the facility through the years. “I think we have one of the best racing surfaces anywhere in the country,” said GM Blake Bowser. We run the March meet and the Hot Rod Reunion each year with some of the fastest Nostalgia TF and FCs in the world. We have to have a great facility for these racers. I remember hosting FHDRS here years ago and we are excited to have them back,” added Blake.

We will be offering both the 2-day SC/SG competition licensing course October 1-2 as well as the fun Dragster Adventure program on October 3. “I can’t wait to visit our California friends again,” said Hawley.

So whether you want to earn your license, improve your skills, check something off your “Bucket List”, or just want to “drive a dragster” in the Dragster Adventure program, give our guys a call with your questions and to register!  If you have a group you’d like to schedule something for, give us a call and we can look for a date that works with everyone’s schedule. The Alcohol class dates are scheduled on request, and we are booking those a month or two out,  so call if you’re ready to upgrade your license or just need some additional time in the car.

Lots of class dates & locations on our website at www.frankhawley.com!

Paul Shields, 904-472-6312, paul.fhdrs@gmail.com 

Jeff Arend, 909-973-8279, jarend@frankhawley.com

866-480-7223

www.frankhawley.com

 

 

 

 

Summit Racing Equipment Fulfills Racing Dreams at Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School

Written by Ainsley Jacobs

For almost forty years, Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School has been the primary leader in racing instruction and entertainment for aspiring professionals, thrill-seekers enthusiasts, and everyone in between. Summit Racing Equipment has been involved with the School since 2004 and, thanks to Summit’s support of sportsman-level racing, Frank Hawley’s has been able to make drag racing dreams come true for tens of thousands of speed students.

Similarly, the World’s Speed Shop®, Summit Racing Equipment has provided high-performance parts to its customers at fair prices with fast shipping and outstanding customer service since 1968. The company first partnered with Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School nearly two decades ago as a way to continue its support of the enthusiast and racing communities.

“We value what Frank [Hawley] and his team are doing by helping folks learn to race or take the next step to go faster in their careers. For some, it’s a bucket list-type item, but for everyone, they’re fulfilling dreams,” said Jim Greenleaf, Motorsports and Events Manager at Summit Racing Equipment and an employee of the company for 25 years. “Frank is improving drag racing, and we are proud to be a part of that by supporting the school as well as its students and racers.”

Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School creates a safe environment in which its students can learn while also promoting the sport itself in a professional manner. “I’ve attended some of Frank’s classes and I was impressed with how he presents the materials while keeping students focused, and how he progresses them on-track with each pass to safely grow their skills,” added Greenleaf, a sportsman racer himself who has spent countless Saturday nights blasting down the dragstrip and knows firsthand just how thrilling a trip on the track can be.

Instilling confidence and developing competence are core focuses of the School, as its curriculums are geared towards developing the next generation of drag racers. Summit Racing Equipment supports these same goals by offering a discount on its products to all of Hawley’s graduates, and also by endowing the School with fire jackets and pants, as well as other safety equipment and items that attendees may need.

“Working with Summit over the years has been wonderful,” affirmed Hawley, who trusts Summit as the School’s “go-to” source for almost everything needed to operate its programs and keep its race cars running perfectly. “Summit’s folks understand the needs of the customer. Racers need the right products at the best price and shipped fast. Summit does this better than anyone.”

The relationship has been such a successful one, in fact, that Summit plans to continue to work with Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School in the years to come. “Frank’s a great representative for Summit, and for drag racing,” shared Greenleaf of the School’s founder, two-time NHRA Funny Car World Champion Frank Hawley. “We love giving back to racers through contingencies or however else we can, and Frank’s School is a big piece of that puzzle.”

Summit Racing Equipment has a longstanding history of supporting drag racers at both the national and sportsman levels. “We’re going on roughly twenty years with the IHRA Summit SuperSeries and we’ve got the NHRA Summit Racing Series for bracket racers,” Greenleaf stated of just two of the many programs the company offers. Summit also sponsors the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, held annually at the iconic Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio. “We love giving racers a chance to race at their local tracks and go on to compete at a divisional level, and even to advance to the national stage where they can be crowned a champion all based on them having started locally.”

Whether it’s a lifelong racer finally succeeding in their goal of winning big, or a rookie whose natural talent takes them to the next level, or a husband-and-wife team competing together at something they both love, the stories that arise as a result of racing are what motivate the Summit team to not only continue their support, but to also expand it through new initiatives.

Ultimately, Summit Racing Equipment isn’t just a supplier of performance parts – it’s a supplier of the parts and pieces needed to turn dreams into reality, and Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School is proud to be partnered in making that happen. For those looking to enjoy the ultimate driving experience, Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School is the most respected and most visited of its kind in the world… all thanks to companies like Summit Racing Equipment.

866-480-7223

www.frankhawley.com

 

© 2014 Frank Hawley Drag Racing School. All rights reserved.
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