Pomona: Jack Beckman preview

Beckman, Still Reeling, Is Ready, Set For Full Funny Car Season In MTS Dodge POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 5, 2007) - Jack Beckman is still reeling from his stunning end to a very short 2006 season as a rookie in the Funny Car class, where in only five...

Beckman, Still Reeling, Is Ready, Set For Full Funny Car Season In MTS Dodge

POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 5, 2007) - Jack Beckman is still reeling from his stunning end to a very short 2006 season as a rookie in the Funny Car class, where in only five events he reached two final rounds, won once, qualified No. 1 once, and set national records in elapsed time and top speed.

With backing from Mail Terminal Services for the Dodge Charger R/T he'll drive for Don Schumacher Racing, Beckman is ready to compete in his first full season in the Funny Car class, as the 2007 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series season opens this weekend at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

"There's that shock about what happened last year," said Beckman, of North Hills, Calif. "Getting a call from Don (Schumacher), going and finishing my licensing, debuting the car a week and a half week later, winning, setting the national records, getting married. Everything was almost dizzying.

"And the ESPN guys said to me after the (Pomona 2 '06) final round, 'I bet you're regretful that the season is ending now with all the momentum you guys had.' I said, No, I really need about four weeks just to digest everything that's happened. So, I think now I'm starting to accept the fact that we're going to be at every race and that we will be a legitimate contender for the championship.

"MTS is big on the car, we've gone and tested, so I think everything has become much more real to me in the last couple of weeks. And now, instead of running just a partial season, we're starting from the first race with the continuity of having the same sponsor all year long. It's just sinking into me."

As an instructor at Frank Hawley's Drag Racing School at Auto Club Raceway, Beckman is certainly familiar with Pomona's quarter-mile, but doesn't feel he has a home-track advantage. "I work at Pomona. I don't know that anybody has thrown the switch up there more than I have," said the 2003 Super Comp champion. "All of the tracks are straight and they're all a quarter-mile. I don't know that there's an advantage. But there's a big comfort level at Pomona for me, and certainly, being that it's my home town, there will be a lot of friends and family out here to support me as well, plus all the local racers that I've run against for the last 15 years. So, yeah, I feel really comfortable coming back here."

Beckman lauds his crew chiefs for his early success: "Todd (Okuhara) and Phil (Shuler, assistant crew chief) are T.O.P.S. You get it? It's T.O. and P.S.: Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler. You got a quiet Hawaiian and an outspoken Southerner. What a perfect pair, isn't it? I tell you, after a run I'll go out and hang out in the lounge and watch them look at the computer and it's interesting watching the way they interact. I don't know that I've seen two people who personality-wise seem so different who are on exactly the same wave length. It's almost an unspoken level between them. They'll each be looking at their own computer and they'll both come to the exact same conclusion on what needs to get done for the next run. It just gives me a big smile listening and watching and knowing how much harmony there is amongst them and the other seven guys on the crew."

As for the possibility of winning his first championship in 2007: "Well, after 16 races they'll shake out the top eight drivers," he said of the new Countdown to the Championship, "and I'm still only five races old at this. It would be ridiculous for me to assume I've got a skill set like a (Ron) Capps, (Gary) Scelzi, Cruz or a Tony (both Pedregons), or even Robert Hight or Eric Medlen, even though they're relatively new. However, there's no question that we have the car and the crew, and I believe that if I keep applying myself that by the time they get down to Indy I should be much more up to speed on driving one of these things. It still doesn't mean I'm going to be at John Force's experience level, it just means that I should be able to do more of the things when the run doesn't go perfect to salvage some round wins, and I should be better at doing the things that make for a perfect run."

-credit: dsr

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Jack Beckman , Eric Medlen , Don Schumacher , Robert Hight , Frank Hawley