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Phil Shuler joins Tony Schumacher and Maynard Family Racing as crew chief

DENSO NHRA Sonoma Nationals

This morning the Maynard Family Racing team (JCM) announced the Phil Shuler has officially joined the crew chief lineup on Tony Schumacher’s Top Fuel dragster operation.

This announcement won’t come as a surprise to some eagle eyed fans though. Phil has been present on the starting line and in Tony’s pit for the last several events. Prior to today, he has been a temporary set of eyes and had been lending his knowledge since temporarily joining the JCM/DSR camp during the Sonoma race in July when crew chief Todd Okuhara was sidelined with COVID. Phil then continued with the team as they were victorious at the Northwest Nationals, and remained onboard for Topeka and Tony’s runner up finish last weekend in Minnesota.

Though it was originally supposed to be a temporary arrangement, the uptick in performance and seeing how well the trio worked together, solidified the decision to bring Phil in house as a full time crew member and have him serve as co-crew chief alongside Todd Okuhara and assistant crew chief Marc Denner. This is a big move as the crew begins preparations for their 2022 Countdown to the Championship title campaign.

“The addition of Phil to our team became a must-do as I watched the brain trust of Todd, Phil and Marc work with Tony and our crew to attain the victory in Seattle and continue with performance improvements since that race. Cathi and I are excited to know we have our team set!” JCM team owner Joe Maynard, said.

As far as tuning duos go, Todd and Phil have quite the long and storied history in the nitro ranks. The veterans of the sport work together at Don Prudhomme’s operation from 2003-2006 before joining Don Schumacher Racing in 2006. Once at DSR, they collaborated on Jack Beckman, Jerry Toliver, Gary Scelzi, Cory McClenathan and Spencer Massey’s cars through 2016. Ahead of the 2017 season, Todd was named the crew chief on Leah Pruett’s Top Fuel machine and Phil joined the US Army team as the assistant crew chief. This marked the first time Phil worked with Tony and he was an integral part of the team finishing second in 2018.

Phil had this to say about joining the team in an official capacity, “After the 2019 season, I stepped away from nitro racing to work on Pro Mods, but I’m happy to be back out on the NHRA circuit full-time again and reunite with Todd and Tony. Todd and I have a long history together, and Tony and I worked together for a few years on the Army car. This is my first time working with Marc Denner, and I think our group has found a good balance as far as how we all complement each other.

“For me, being away from fuel racing for two years allows me to look at things differently and bring a different perspective. You learn things from other forms of racing such as Pro Modifieds, Drag Radial and Outlaw cars, that applies to nitro racing.”

For 86 time event winner who is gearing up for a ninth Top Fuel championship title, Tony feels like Phil joining the team is the perfect addition.

“They just work together well, plain and simple. On their own, they’re both great, but when they’re able to collaborate, they’re even better. It’s clear our team has been making big strides as of late, and I feel good about the direction we’re headed in.

“Drag racing comes down to being on your game at the right time, that’s why you always hear people say you’ve got to get hot at the right time, and I think we’re only just beginning to demonstrate what we’re capable of, performance wise,” added Tony. Having propelled himself from 12th to 8th in the points since Sonoma, he finds himself very much in the title hunt conversation. “We have the capability to run right up there with the top-ranked cars in the category, and I feel good about our abilities to keep this momentum rolling into the Countdown. I’m very happy with our current Todd-Phil-Marc arrangement.”

Yes, the playoffs are right around the corner, but the first order of business is a successful outing at the biggest race of the year, the US Nationals. Tony is no stranger to the ‘Big Go’ having won it 10 times, which is more than any other Camping World Series competitor. The US Nationals has a unique points-and-a-half format, so it’s very possible that Tony could jump as many as two or three spots in the points to start the Countdown. He is currently 94 points, just over three rounds, away from 5th ranked Justin Ashley and 54 points, less than two rounds, away from Leah Pruett and Shawn Langdon who are tied for 6th.

Joe and Cathi Maynard already have one win and one runner up finish to their name since taking over majority ownership three races ago and are seeking their second Top Fuel win and DSR’s 368th win during the famed Labor Day weekend event. The Okuhara/Shuler led team will take to the track on Friday, September 2nd at 7:30 pm ET, to begin qualifying for the US Nationals.


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