The Chandler family and Don Schumacher Racing’s ‘Giving Car’ partnership, which was launched in 2014 as a charitable effort by Terry and Doug Chandler, is entering its final stretch, with the program destined to conclude after the 2020 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
The program, which enables a non-profit organization to be recognized through a dedicated tribute livery at no cost to the organization, was started by philanthropist and longtime friend of DSR, Terry Chandler. Following Terry’s passing in July 2017, her husband, Doug Chandler, chose to continue the program in her honor, financially supporting the Funny Cars of Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson, Jr.
In 2013, Chandler and her brother, Johnny Gray, partnered to sponsor the Funny Car he drove for DSR, funding the car in honor of their father, the late John R. Gray. When Gray retired from driving at the end of the season, Johnson Jr. was tabbed as his replacement. Although her brother was stepping aside, Chandler had found her home at DSR, and continued to sponsor the team. She used the race car as a platform to promote awareness for The Make-A-Wish Foundation.
In 2014, DSR and Chandler began the tradition of hosting ‘Wish Kids’ and their families, welcoming them into the VIP hospitality pavilion next to the race team’s pit area at Mello Yello events. Although she funded the operation, Chandler insisted that the race car truly belonged to each one of the Make-A-Wish children. DSR is honored to have helped grant Wishes for four deserving Wish Kids.
During the 2014 season, the Chandler’s began funding a second team at DSR with 2012 Funny Car world championship driver Jack Beckman behind the wheel. The branding for the race car was dedicated to another organization that touched Chandler’s heart: The Infinite Hero Foundation (IHF), a non-profit organization that combats mental and physical issues facing returning military heroes and their families. More than $730,000 has been raised to-date through Chandler and DSR’s various Infinite Hero endeavors, most notably through the trackside challenge coin program.
Doug Chandler chose to campaign an MD Anderson tribute car in 2020 as a way to showcase the institution’s cancer research and patient care initiatives, and it was announced at the start of the 2020 season that Johnson would pilot that car full-time. Chandler experienced firsthand the level of care provided by MD Anderson, when Terry was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive and rare form of brain cancer in 2017, and sought treatment at MD Anderson before her passing.
“We had an incredible run with the ‘giving car’ program,” said Megan Schumacher, VP of Don Schumacher Racing. “Any expectations we may have set were exceeded, and then some. Having the opportunity to meet so many Wish families, granting Wishes, hosting countless military heroes and their families, getting to know the Linfoot family, meeting cancer survivors who credit MD Anderson for being able to overcome their disease; there are just so many truly incredible things that came out of this program, and I know I speak for all of us at DSR when I say ‘thank you’ to the Chandler family. Thank you to Terry for having it in her heart to start this, and thank you to Doug for continuing it on for so many years beyond Terry’s passing. It’s hard to express how grateful we are. The Chandlers inspire us all, and they will always be part of the DSR family.”
Beckman and Johnson share in Schumacher’s sentiment.
“It’s always difficult when a sponsorship comes to an end, but this has been much more than that,” said Beckman. “It’s been a relationship and a friendship, and Terry and Doug Chandler have not just enabled me to race for six more years, but I’ve been able to earn more than half of my Funny Car wins with the Infinite Hero Foundation, and that’s truly special. I’ve been in the same room with eight Medal of Honor recipients. We’ve been able to do the challenge coin program, which has not only generated hundreds of thousands of dollars, but has generated hundreds of conversations, and relationships, and connections with military veterans and their families, and it’s just taken my life to a whole new level.
“The memories that have been generated during this six-year relationship are something that I cherish probably more than anything else in my driving career,” added Beckman. “It’s been something that is irreplaceable. We will buckle down, and we will work hard to find funding to continue racing, but no matter what, you can never take away what the Chandlers and Infinite Hero have done for me, my racing, my family life, my personal life, and the thousands of people that they’ve helped along the way.”
“As sad as I am to learn the ‘giving car’ program will not continue, I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to be a part of such an incredible experience,” said Johnson. “Not only was I the Chandlers’ driver, they made me feel as if I were a part of their family. Both Doug and Terry did so many great things for so many people and it was truly an honor to represent them. Not only did we have success on the race track, it was also the lives that we touched. I can’t thank both Doug and Terry enough for what they did for myself, our teams, all the Wish families, soldiers, cancer patients, and Riley kids. The Chandlers are truly special people.”