Jack Beckman and crew chief Rob Flynn competed at their first event of the year in January to open the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
The Valvoline MaxLife Dodge Charger R/T team started with a virtually new crew and the team leaders, including assistant Terry Snyder, knew it would take several races to return to a level comparable to 2012 when Jack's team won the NHRA Funny Car world championship.
The team will carry momentum to Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga., when qualifying begins on Friday.
At the last event near Houston two weeks ago, Jack advanced to the championship round for the first time this season. It also was the first time the Valvoline Dodge advanced to the semifinals.
It was only the second time in six events this season that a Don Schumacher Racing Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car raced in the championship round. All four DSR Funny Car teams are seeking their first title of the season.
"We've had a pretty decent car all year, it's just that our results hadn't shown it until Houston," said Jack, whose team has not won an event title since September 2012. "We just couldn't get passed the second round, and if we ran good the car in the next lane would run low (elapsed time) of the round.
"We knew if we could do that on a more consistent basis that we'd start going deeper in eliminations, and Houston proved that. Our crew members who haven't experienced their first win are hungry.
"Getting to the final round was a reward for how hard they've been working."
Atlanta will be a good place for the Valvoline MaxLife team to return to the winner's circle. Jack won Funny Car titles there in 2009 and 2011.
"I've had good success at Atlanta, and now odds-makers have to think we're a good bet to go deep on Sunday," he said. "After Houston everybody knows we're close."
Don Schumacher Racing