Automotive Graduate Pursues His Dreams in Racing Industry

A Joliet Junior College graduate is following his childhood dreams working with one of the National Hot Rod Association’s (NHRA) top teams. 

Matt Sackman started with Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) in 2013 as a clutch assistant/tire specialist on Antron Brown’s Matco Tools Top Fuel dragster. He was promoted to cylinder head specialist in 2018. 

Matt Sackman
Matt Sackman
Photo Courtesy of Auto Imagery

Sackman has certificates in mechanical production technology, machine tool metalworking, computer numerical control, dimensional metrology and blue print reading from JJC.

As a cylinder head specialist, Sackman works with NHRA Top Fuel cars. A Top Fuel dragster is the fastest accelerating car in the world, with some reaching 335 miles per hour. 

“Top Fuel engines are so powerful that we have to rebuild the engine after every run. At the racetrack we typically have around one to two hours to rebuild the engine. With quick turnaround times like that we have to put fresh parts on for every run,” Sackman said.

For Sackman, a typical weekend at the racetrack includes six to eight runs. That means servicing 12-16 cylinder heads the following week. He also has his commercial driver’s license (CDL), which allows him to transport the race car to each event aboard a truck. 

Recently he earned his Top Fuel license as a driver.

“To earn my top fuel license I was required to make three runs in a Top Fuel dragster. I made those runs in Las Vegas this past April with my best run being 3.83 seconds at 312 mph. The track for Top Fuel is 1,000 feet,” Sackman said.

Brown’s team drives about 40,000 miles a year. When Sackman has off weekends he likes to race his family’s 6-second 230 mph NHRA Top Dragster.

This past weekend, he participated in Route 66 Raceway’s Burn Down at Sundown event, winning the race for the second year in a row.

Sackman with Antron Brown
Matt Sackman (left) with Antron Brown (right)
Photo Courtesy of Don Schumacher Racing

Racing’s always been a part of Sackman’s life.

When Sackman was 9 years old he started racing in the NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League with his brother Zach.

“My dad had always been around racing and I’ve been around it since I was born,” said Sackman. 

During high school Sackman attended the Grundy Area Vocational Center (GAVC), earning dual credit for some of the welding classes that he took and easing the transition to JJC.  

“The cost at JJC when I went was very affordable and the variety of technical classes and degrees is why I chose JJC. I also worked 30-40 hours a week. The times and availability of classes allowed me to work those hours and attend college,” he said. 

Eventually, Sackman would like to compete in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series circuit and join DSR’s team as a driver. 

For media inquiries, contact Communications and Media Coordinator Scott Harvey at 815-280-2844 or