Bristol: Round 12 preview

FUNNY CAR DRIVER JACK BECKMAN READY FOR "U.S. SWING" HEADING INTO BRISTOL BRISTOL, Tenn. -- With the reschedule of the O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, the well known "Western Swing" has turned into the "U.S. Swing," taking drivers from...


BRISTOL, Tenn. -- With the reschedule of the O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, the well known "Western Swing" has turned into the "U.S. Swing," taking drivers from Topeka, Kan. to Sonoma, Calif., hitting 10 races in 12 weeks.

No driver recognizes how much of an impact this grueling schedule will have on the Countdown to the Championship chase more than Funny Car driver Jack Beckman.

Driving his Mail Terminal Services Dodge Charger in his first full season in Funny Car, Beckman says that this is the time when you need to make sure everything is running smoothly.

"I'm not sure if momentum is a good description, but with six races in six weeks, this is when you want to have your ducks in a row," Beckman said.

With the re-scheduled Bristol event occurring the first week of July, the NHRA season will have six straight weeks of racing, starting in Englishtown in mid-June and ending in Sonoma during the last weekend of July. It's this rare change in the schedule that has Beckman ready to make his run for the championship.

"This is going to be the big test," Beckman said. "This has never happened before in NHRA history and I don't think we're going to ever see this again. I think my team is postured perfectly to make a great run over the next six races."

The O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Q, July 6-8, is the 12th of 23 events in the NHRA POWERade series. It is also Beckman's first trip to Thunder Valley and being a fan of drag racing history, he's excited to see what the trip will bring.

"I'm a huge historian of drag racing and the wonderful thing about this being my first season is that I get to go to tracks I've never been to before," Beckman said. "Bristol has so much history. It has as much history about it as any other major track on the NHRA tour. I'm really revved up about going there to see the fans in that part of the country and race on a track that has that much history."

With the addition of the Countdown to the Championship this season, many teams are fighting to make the top eight before the first cut-off. After the Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals in Reading, Pa. in August, only the top eight will advance to the next round in the Countdown. Currently sitting in eighth place in the points standings, Beckman says that his number one concern going into this stretch is qualifying for every race.

"Before I started the season, I never thought that we wouldn't qualify for all 23 races," Beckman said. "At this point, my perspective has completely changed and I feel fortunate every time that we qualify. There are so many incredible teams that don't qualify each week because the competition is so great. Job one for us is we have to qualify for every race. I think if we qualify and get past the first round at every race, then the points will take care of themselves."

Competing in what is arguably the most competitive Funny Car class to ever hit the track, Beckman recognizes that even a strong team can struggle to make the field.

"Don't get me wrong," Beckman said. "We expect to be able to win every race we compete in. It's just that there are 19 other cars that feel the same way each week."

Beckman will have plenty of competition when the Funny Car category heads to Bristol Dragway. Drivers to watch include current points leader and defending event winner Ron Capps, NHRA legend John Force, Force's teammate and son-in-law Robert Hight, who earned back-to-back wins this year at Las Vegas and Atlanta and rookie sensation Ashley Force, who is looking for her first career win.

The competitive Top Fuel field features several drivers to keep on the radar, including three-time Bristol winner Doug Kalitta, Brandon Bernstein, who has won three of the four final rounds he's appeared in this season, and sophomore driver J.R. Todd, who has a won at Pomona and Houston this year. Defending series champion and 2004 event winner Tony Schumacher looks to grab his second win of the season at Bristol.

In Pro Stock, drivers in contention are defending event-winner Jason Line, who also won in Houston this season; Greg Anderson, who has collected an impressive five wins this season; and two-time Bristol winner and 2007 International Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee, Warren Johnson.

* SCHEDULE: Professional qualifying sessions are scheduled for 5 and 7:30 p.m. on July 6, and 12:30 and 3 p.m. on July 7. Pre-race ceremonies are scheduled for 11 a.m. on July 8, followed by the first round of professional eliminations at noon.

* TICKETS: Tickets are available for the O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Q. Please call Bristol Dragway at (423) 989-6900. Tickets also are available at

* ON TV: On July 7, ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 4 p.m. (ET). On July 8, ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise NHRA Race Day, a 30-minute pre-race news magazine show, at 11 a.m. (ET) and also will televise three hours of eliminations coverage at 9:30 p.m. (ET).

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Jack Beckman , Ashley Force , Robert Hight , J.R. Todd