Sonoma: Jack Beckman pre-race notes

IMBEDDED REPORTER STRUNK BECKMAN'S 'LUCKY CHARM'? SONOMA, Calif. (July 25, 2007) - Jack Beckman's newest crew member has never seen his Funny Car driver lose a match. And, although he knows little about crankshafts, pistons or blowers, author...

IMBEDDED REPORTER STRUNK BECKMAN'S 'LUCKY CHARM'?

SONOMA, Calif. (July 25, 2007) - Jack Beckman's newest crew member has never seen his Funny Car driver lose a match.

And, although he knows little about crankshafts, pistons or blowers, author and journalist Harry Strunk has claimed himself a position alongside the winning Mail Terminal Services Dodge crew on the Don Schumacher Racing team as the team competes in the Western Swing of the 2007 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series and perhaps beyond.

The final event on the Swing is this weekend's Fram-Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

"I don't know what it is like to lose on the track...and I love it," proclaims Strunk in reference to helping MTS Dodge Charger R/T driver Jack Beckman win national titles in Denver and Seattle in the past 10 days. That includes nine straight match-ups. (Strunk counts the sole qualifying round in rain-delayed Seattle last week as a win also.) "God just put me in the right place at the right time and I'm enjoying the ride," he says.

Strunk showed up at the drag strip after convincing long-time friend and drag-racing legend Don Schumacher into allowing him a behind-the-scenes look at NHRA drag racing. In the mode of George Plimpton's "Paper Lion," he is writing an action-packed novel about drag racing entitled "Burning More Than Rubber," as well as the biography of Schumacher and his racing teams. In addition, he is writing a weekly column in National Dragster and a blog for NHRA.com.

"Right now we're not sure we are going to let Harry go home," said a jubilant Beckman after Sunday's win in Seattle. Beckman represents a new generation of drivers who are gaining the respect and attention of fellow racers and fans alike. Additionally, Beckman is an instructor at Frank Hawley's Drag Racing School in Pomona, Calif., and has licensed more than 5,000 of the 35,000 drag racers out there today.

"Beating Kenny Bernstein in the semis and John Force in the finals, as Jack did in Seattle, is like beating Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer in a golfing playoff," says Strunk, who resides in Key Largo, Fla. "I just don't think the average sports fan understands the depth of this accomplishment."

Strunk's deal with Schumacher was a trip on the Western Swing -- races in Denver, Seattle and Sonoma - in return for his staying out of the way. It appears he has done such a good job of staying out of the way that Beckman is the only DSR team out of seven to have won the past two national events. Strunk's duties on the MTS team include dumping oil pans, filling fuel bottles and helping to pack the parachutes necessary for slowing the vehicle after speeds approaching 330 mph in a quarter mile.

"It was hard for me to imagine the amount of hard work, dedication and complexity necessary for winning in Top Fuel and Funny Car racing today," said Strunk of his experience. Attending Schumacher's races once per year for the last decade gave him no idea of what was going on behind the scenes. "Better education and simpler explanations of what is happening at the track would help a lot in building larger fan support," he says.

One reason that Strunk is targeting drag racing for one of his first novels is his belief that the sport is poised for rapid growth in the wake of the exploding popularity of NASCAR. Also, historic developments are underway at NHRA with the purchase of NHRA Pro Racing by HD Partners, a public stock listed company. Observers are predicting that HD Partners will take the sport to the next level of sports entertainment.

As for Strunk's future in racing, he says he must get back to his family after the Sonoma race. Should Beckman win again this weekend, he has agreed to crew at elimination rounds at the next scheduled event in Brainerd, Minn., in order to cheer Beckman on and keep his winning streak alive.

"As long as Jack keeps winning, I'm not going anywhere," Strunk says.

-credit: dsr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kenny Bernstein , John Force , Jack Beckman , Don Schumacher