Ready for Norwalk as second half of Mello Yello season begins
Jack Beckman and the Valvoline MaxLife Funny Car team have experienced midseason crew changes before and each time the Don Schumacher Racing team has rallied.
This weekend could be another turnaround chapter for Jack in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at Norwalk, Ohio.
His crew chief and crew were swapped early in 2012 and the Valvoline Dodge Charger R/T team went on to win the NHRA Funny Car world championship.
Although Jack never made it to the winner's circle last season, he finished an impressive third in the final Mello Yello standings.
After his streak of not winning a national title reached 38 events and he fell to 11th in points after the event two weeks ago at Epping, N.H., team owner Don Schumacher hired veteran crew chief Chris Cunningham a week ago to assist Jack's crew chief, Rob Flynn.
With less than one week to renew their previously successful relationship, Rob and Chris qualified sixth for last weekend's event at Route 66 Raceway but lost in the first round to DSR teammate Matt Hagan, who went on to win the event title.
As the second half of the season begins at Norwalk, only six events remain before the top-10 drivers are determined to be contenders in the six-race NHRA Countdown to the Championship that begins Sept. 12-14 at Charlotte.
"Don shook it up and in the long run it will be a good call to get some different chemistry going to see if we can get this car more predictable," Jack said. "We're just running out of time. You don't know if every round is important but we know we can't afford to keep losing early on Sunday.
"This is the second week we're out of the top-10 and it is going to get harder to catch the cars ahead of us as they start solidifying their spots for the Countdown. We don't want to sneak in; we want to be solidly in the middle of the pack."
The upside for Jack and his team is they are only 22 points out of 10th and 70 out of ninth. Each eliminations round win is worth 20 points in addition to earning up to 12 points in qualifying and then between one and eight depending where you rank between first and 16th for the first elimination round.
"We have to take advantage of each qualifying session because those three (quickest), two, one bonus points in each session might be how we get back into the top-10.
"We're putting our backs to the wall and we're getting to the position where we have to win two or three events to jump back into this thing. We'll see. We get to do it again this weekend in Norwalk," said Jack, who won the 2009 Funny Car title at the track in northern Ohio.
"Chris will have more time to digest computer data and now he's been able to see the car go down the track in person. I know Rob has spent a lot of time with Chris getting him acclimated to our tune-up program and looking at notes but it's not the same as standing on the starting line and watching the car go down the track."