GAINESVILLE, Fla. - It was all about improvement this weekend for Jack Beckman and the Valvoline NextGen/MTS Mail for Wounded Warriors Funny Car team at the NHRA Gatornationals.
But the improvement didn't show until Sunday's eliminations and after what Beckman calls the "hardest working crew" spent a late Saturday night and early Sunday morning working on their racecar.
And then team struggled to an 11th-place qualifying effort, pairing them against Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the opening round. Beckman's Dodge Charger R/T posted a 4.121-second pass to defeat Ron Capps' NAPA Filters Dodge that hazed the tires, resulting in a 4.276-second lap.
"My guys were here until midnight Saturday and then right back here early this morning," Beckman said. "From the outside I think the fans think it's a rock star lifestyle and the crew guys get to party and hang out.
But what you don't see is that they show up here not long after the sun gets up and they are still working on the race car way after the sun goes down. "
To Beckman, their hard work doesn't go unnoticed and unappreciated. Especially after DSR secured its 200th national event win as an organization, where Beckman has contributed 15 Funny Car event wins.
"They are lucky to get a quick bite to eat, get cleaned up and get a few hours of sleep after a night like they had."
Beckman went on to race teammate Matt Hagan in the second round of Sunday's eliminations where the Valvoline/MTS team posted its best run of the weekend, a 4.094-second pass before meeting eventual event winner Johnny Gray - and yet another teammate - in the semifinal round.
Crew chief Todd Smith is planning a Monday test for the team to further diagnose the struggles the team faced prior to Sunday's eliminations.
"We were already planning on testing tomorrow and we will still test tomorrow," Beckman said after the semifinal finish. "There's a lot of things that you cycle through in nitro racing such as clutch discs, a new data recorder on the car this year and a couple things that should eventually improve the performance on our car. It just takes time to get them ironed out.
"I'm not saying we're going to be perfect from here on out, but I'm saying this is just the fruits of our labor and we can keep picking at this and be right back in the winner's circle pretty quick."
Beckman's only remorse is that the team was unable to show a Wally trophy for their efforts this weekend.
"It would've been wonderful to give the guys a trophy at the end of the day today, and it's always frustrating to lose. But I think that this is one of the races where maybe later in the year we look back and say that's where we turned the corner."
Don Schumacher Racing