Norwalk: Jack Beckman preview

BECKMAN REFLECTS, PREPARES FOR NORWALK NORTH HILLS, Calif. (June 25, 2008) - As a cancer survivor, Jack Beckman has endured challenges in his life. As an NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car driver, he has enjoyed both victory and defeat...

BECKMAN REFLECTS, PREPARES FOR NORWALK

NORTH HILLS, Calif. (June 25, 2008) - As a cancer survivor, Jack Beckman has endured challenges in his life. As an NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car driver, he has enjoyed both victory and defeat on the nation's most famous quarter-mile tracks.

Last Sunday, Beckman wasn't able to make a fourth qualifying attempt to get into the Funny Car field because of the fatal crash in front of him that took fellow driver Scott Kalitta's life as Beckman waited his turn in the staging lanes. That session was cancelled and Beckman failed to qualify for the NHRA SuperNationals in Englishtown, N.J., but, for the driver of the Vavoline/Mail Terminal Services Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, that was OK.

"I am still one of the biggest drag race fans," said Beckman, who is in only his second full season of Funny Car competition. "If we don't do good and I have to leave early on a Sunday I am always calling from the airport to find out who won. We TiVO all the races so I can come home and watch them.

"I didn't even know who won on Sunday," said Beckman, who left early on race day to return to his wife Jenna and son Jason Russell in North Hills, Calif. "And it's the first time that I could ever think of in my racing career where it didn't actually seem all that important.

"After what happened on Saturday - we were the car behind Scott in the staging lanes - it just didn't seem to matter. I'm sure for everybody who had to suit up, they still had a job to do, but it just didn't feel the same.

"I'm sure everybody is going to be doing a lot of grieving this weekend in Norwalk, and it's not going to go away by next week, but it might be a chance to kind of get back to a little bit of rhythm," he added, as he prepared to compete in this weekend's Second Annual NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio.

"It's never going to be the same. It's not like one day we went, OK, well, we're over that. You'll never get over it. There is a time frame when it hurts almost constantly. And then when you get past that it's a memory and a tugging at the heart when you think of the people we have lost.

"In some regards I almost wish we had another week off to grieve, but I also think it might not be a bad thing if we all get back in the race cars this weekend and start the healing."

As for the performance of the Valvoline/MTS Dodge, "We pretty much have our backs up against the wall now," he said of getting into the top 10 from the 13th spot for the Countdown to the Championship which begins following the U.S. Nationals on Labor Day weekend. "I remember when John Force was struggling early last year. Somebody asked me how many more races do you think they can afford to not perform well. And I said, Well, by two more races if he hasn't won a couple of rounds he's going to be out. And sure enough, he came on strong after that and started doing better. Well, I think I can say the same for us right now. In the next two races we need to start performing well.

"It's not for lack of consistency that we've struggled. We have to take advantage of the qualifying session where the conditions are quickest. A lot of these guys take home-run swings in these good cool-air sessions and it puts them high up in the field. We just haven't been able to do that," added Beckman. There have been as many as 21 cars this season vying for 16 spots in the field.

"So far so good," he said of the new DSR1 chassis he is running. "It drives well. They all kind of have their own personality and like different things. (Teammate Gary Scelzi's crew chief) Todd Okuhara is going through that with the Hadman chassis on the Mopar/Oakley car and our crew chiefs Johnny West and Tommy DeLago need to figure out what specific changes to the tune-up this new car will respond to. And that takes runs down the race track. But, unfortunately we're running out of runs down the race track.

"It's not that we didn't do good in Englishtown, it's that we didn't do good enough in the first three runs. We actually ran a 4.89 (-second elapsed time). It just ended up being one spot outside the field of Friday's 12-car cutoff.

"Norwalk is a great facility, and we feel confident we'll get back on track this weekend."

-credit: dsr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Gary Scelzi , Scott Kalitta , Jack Beckman