BECKMAN IS RUNNER-UP IN VEGAS LAS VEGAS (Nov. 1, 2009) - Jack Beckman and the Valvoline/Mail Terminal Services Dodge Funny Car team endured a series of mishaps, mechanical problems and parts damage to end up in their fifth final round of...
BECKMAN IS RUNNER-UP IN VEGAS
LAS VEGAS (Nov. 1, 2009) - Jack Beckman and the Valvoline/Mail Terminal Services Dodge Funny Car team endured a series of mishaps, mechanical problems and parts damage to end up in their fifth final round of the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, before bowing out to Robert Hight. It also marked the 17th final of Beckman's career, and his second at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
No. 8 qualifier Beckman first dismissed Mike Neff with a less-than-perfect 4.430-second pass at 261.12 mph, then dismissed his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Matt Hagan in the second round with another so-so 4.210/285.41 pass, in which he tagged the wall with the header pipes after crossing the finish line.
He survived a .006 reaction time set by Del Worsham in the semifinal round to his .083 (.000 is perfect) when Worsham struck the tires. With at least one cylinder out which turned into an engine explosion, Beckman crossed the finish line first with a 4.359/262.90 winning pass.
Assisted by nearly every other Don Schumacher Racing crew member on the property to repair the car before the final round, the Valvoline/MTS team scrambled back up to the staging lines on time for his match-up against class points leader Hight.
Without lane choice, Beckman faced arguably the hottest car/driver combination in the class, and took off first with a .058 reaction time to Hight's .075. It was oh so close, but Hight nipped Beckman at the finish stripe by .0127 of a second (or six feet) to claim the win with a 4.125/304.46 to Beckman's 4.154/303.16.
Had Beckman won the race, he would have moved into second in the point standings, with one race remaining, in Pomona, Calif., in two weeks. Instead, he settled for fourth place, 114 markers out of the top spot.
"It was a strange day for the Valvoline/MTS car," he said. "We almost never hurt our car. And we couldn't go down the track without hurting it today. It was just a very odd day.
"But, I'm telling you, I had such a positive feeling pulling up there for the final round. I thought we were going to ambush him. We had problems fixing it after the semifinals. It blew the dash up in the car, it oiled everything, it cooked fuel lines, it cooked the air lines and we had shelor.com guys over here, we had the NAPA Funny Car guys over here. There had to be 17 people working on this car.
"We got it back together, we warmed it up, everything was fine and we had a leaking fuel tank and no time. And we dug the spare tank out of the other chassis, we fixed it, we got the car up there, and we didn't hold the program up one bit.
"And we laid down a damned respectable number. It's a tough pill to lose one when you run that good. But there's nothing to do but take your hat off and congratulate the other team. I walked over and I congratulated Robert and, for all intents and purposes that run probably was and is going to be the championship. We're going to win Pomona and race for second place unless a miracle happens.
"But we have nothing but positive to take from this. I know our Valvoline/MTS guys are frustrated, but they performed the best recovery of the day to put this car down the track quickly in the final.
"In all three of the preliminary rounds we hurt it. In the second round, we got over towards the wall, and we got oil all over the place and burned some pistons. In the semis it lifted the supercharger and hurt the body some. We thought we might have to switch bodies, but the guys just did an amazing job of replacing some of the Kevlar parts on this body so we could run it in the final.
"I think we had the same wheelie bar, the same seat belts, the same body, and the same driver, and that was about it.
"I can't thank the other Schumacher teams enough, and that's one of the hallmarks of racing for a company this professional with this kind of teamwork, because nobody had to be asked to come help us. They just came right over and lent a hand. And it's interesting enough watching eight pairs of hands work on a car without getting in each other's way. We had 12 pairs on the chassis and the other guys on other components and they got it done.
"They did everything they needed to do to get us back up there for a chance to win. Unfortunately, Robert Hight's car just was a little bit better than we were in the final."
Next up is the 45th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif., Nov. 12-15.