Arizona native Travis Shumake grew up racing go-karts with his father Tripp, a legend in the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA). Now, he’s behind the wheel of a funny car himself, smashing barriers as the first openly gay driver to compete in the NHRA. Shumake, 36, spent three years as director of program development for Valley nonprofit one-n-ten, which supports LGBTQ youth, before moving to New York to work for the Clinton Foundation. His homecoming in February marks his professional debut on the racing track, for the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Motorsports. We recently sat down with Shumake to talk about his debut into the sport of drag racing, which differs from NASCAR in both number of competitors (just two cars in a two-lane race on a quarter-mile track, versus 40 cars doing 200 laps on a longer track) and what it’s like to be behind the wheel of a funny car with the engine in front of him and a rainbow parachute behind him.
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