BECKMAN QUALIFIES NO. 1 IN POMONA POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 11, 2006) - Jack Beckman continues to roll since winning the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car race in Las Vegas two weeks ago, in only his fourth drive in that class, and marrying...
BECKMAN QUALIFIES NO. 1 IN POMONA
POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 11, 2006) - Jack Beckman continues to roll since winning the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car race in Las Vegas two weeks ago, in only his fourth drive in that class, and marrying his longtime girlfriend Jenna Lucy last Tuesday. He can now add No. 1 qualifier to his resume, and put an exclamation point on his nickname "Fast," after scoring the fastest pass in NHRA history, 333.66 mph, while posting his career quickest elapsed time of 4.671 seconds at the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals.
The consistent performance of the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Charger R/T was evident in each of the four qualifying passes, beginning with a 4.805-second lap at 313.37 mph, a 4.755/325.14, a No. 1-qualifying 4.705/328.78 - which was then thrown out after a technical fuel check showed the car was running a nitromethane mixture of 85.7 percent (85 percent is the legal limit) - and finally the spectacular 4.671/333.66 pass under ideal conditions to take back the No. 1.
"Phil Shuler, the assistant crew chief, always comes over, sits on the front tire, plugs the MDS programmer in, we go through the ritual of putting the timing curve in, and he looked at me, shook his head, and said, 'Hold on,'" said Beckman.
"I mean, the thing was a monster, but it's been a monster all weekend. That car [has been] a bracket car for the last two races. It broke one of the hinges on the roof hatch, so at 1000 ft. I start seeing daylight coming. I thought (John) Force radioed God, (and) told him to slow our car down or something. I'm looking up wondering what the hell is going on and the car veered over a little bit. At least that's the excuse I gave (crew chief Todd) Okuhara for the car veering.
"Todd Okuhara is one of the most laid-back guys I've ever met. After we got that fuel-check issue I watched him on the computer and he was just shaking his head and he says, 'You'd better hold on 'cause this thing either is going deep in the 4.60s or it's not going anywhere on the next run.' I think he wanted to make a statement with that and, my God, did he make a statement. That was exciting.
"The Matco Tools crew has got such a great race car it's making me look more experienced than I am, and when you step in a car that was driven by Whit Bazemore, everybody is going to be looking at you with some scrutiny. I'm not even close to where I need to be eventually in a race car, but the reality is that they have such a great tune-up in that car - I don't want to say that it's easy to drive - [that] it sure makes me look pretty good on some of the runs."
Beckman, of North Hills, Calif., is an instructor at Frank Hawley's Drag Racing School here at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. "There's a big comfort level at Pomona," he says. "I've thrown the switch 28,000 times down there and watched students go down there.
"It's home for me. Stepping up on stage and getting the Wally is really what it's all about, but [probably the most fun for me] is towing by the grandstands and specifically the racer grandstands because there's 3000 of my buddies in those grandstands that are so happy to see a Sportsman racer get a chance to drive a quality car and get a chance to get into the winner's circle. The other 22,000 fans screaming didn't hurt either," says Beckman, the 2003 NHRA Super Comp champion.
As for the fuel-check disqualification, "I'm pretty philosophical about stuff like that," he says. "I can't afford to throw my helmet because I'd have to pay for another one. I don't want to throw any of the tools because Matco would get upset with me. We went back and the guys were upset. I said, Well, listen, if we just go out and run a .68 the next run, which we did - we went .67 - all of this would have been forgotten. Maybe the biggest disappointment to me is if that DQs us from the Full Throttle Challenge, because otherwise those guys would have got their just rewards for what they've done for the team. To me, because I think we got the best group of mechanics, it would have been awesome at the last race of the year to reward them with the true mechanics' reward."
Beckman, who raced a Top Fuel Dragster 12 times in 2005, had a unique way of explaining the differences in driving a Dragster and a Funny Car: "[In] the Dragsters you just breathe on the steering wheel and [in] the Funny Car it's a Winnebago with a flat front tire in a 60-mph cross wind on some runs."
Beckman faces Scott Kalitta in first round of eliminations on Sunday.