Second-generation racer Travis Shumake is about to make history. He’s getting ready to secure his Funny Car license to become the first openly gay driver in the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA). He already earned his Nostalgia Funny Car license earlier this month at the Frank Hawley Driving School. Next year, Shumake is looking to take on a full-time appearance.
“Someone will be the first; it’s only a matter of time,” Shumake said in a press release. “I know my dad would be proud of me for breaking that barrier.”
Shumake’s father, Funny Car champion Tripp Shumake, was a dominant racer in the 1970s and 80s. While he died when Travis was only 15, the mark he left on his son was indelible; Travis always felt the pull to get behind the wheel, though it took him a while to find his place there. Travis’ mother, Susie, was also a staple in the Arizona drag racing world, having recently been inducted into the Arizona Drag Racing Hall of Fame.
It seems like it was only a matter of time before Shumake ended up behind the wheel. But in the meantime, he was recognized as a “Future Gay Leader of America” by Advocate Magazine in 2005 and a Phoenix Business Journal’s 40 under 40 awardee due to his skills in business. He’s used his experience as a former foster parent and advocate for homeless LGBTQ+ youth to help set up a non-profit.
“It’s Pride Month and I’m sure there are plenty of drivers out there who feel restrained to pursue their passion for motorsports because these waters haven’t been tested,” he added in the press release. “Corporate support of the LGBTQ+ community should be represented on the racetrack as well. Bringing new fans and sponsors to the fastest growing motorsport in the world is a win win for everyone involved.”
Drag racing has been a surprisingly welcoming sport for people of all kinds, be they women or men, LGBTQ+ or straight, a person of color or white, rich or poor. As long as a driver has earned a license in the appropriate class and has a race car pass tech, that driver can compete—whether those people compete full time or just show up to have a good time. There are still biases, of course, but the nature of the sport makes it easy for anyone to compete if they’re interested.
Shumake is looking to make his professional NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series debut in 2022—but in the meantime, you’ll be able to find him securing sponsorships and racing old machines.