Category: News: Competition Plus


Just three months ago, Jack Beckman entered the season finale at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona on a lifetime losing streak in nitro at one of the sports crown jewel motorsports facilities.

On Sunday, Beckman became a back-to-back Pomona champion.

Beckman knocked off John Force in his third-straight final at the legendary southern California facility, overcoming a small starting line disadvantage to cruise to his 31st career Funny Car win and first at the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by

“When you look at your trophy case, they are all the same size. But when you look at that 2015 Indy one, it shines a little brighter because of what happened that weekend. We’ve got the last Funny Car trophy from Englishtown. Certain ones just stand out,” Beckman said. “But to get a Winternationals trophy in nitro, my first two trophies were at the Winternationals in Super Comp. Now I have two in three months.

“It is my home track. I have probably spent more time down on that starting line than anybody else. I feel comfortable here. I have a lot of friends and family out here today and it is the perfect storm. I had never won a nitro title at Pomona up until November of last year and now I’ve got two in a row. It is beyond magical. I’ve said it before, you don’t know if your last win is your last win. I am going to go out on a limb and say this ain’t our last win.”

Nerves were high in the final as a small drizzle put the competition on hold, leaving the drivers to sit and wait in the staging lanes. But after a small delay, Beckman pulled to the line and got the job done.

Beckman produced a 3.837-second pass at 333.33 mph in his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger Funny Car for Don Schumacher Racing, nosing just ahead of Force’s 3.897 at 332.34 mph. The win stopped Force short of earning his eighth Winternationals title as the 16-time champion reached his 11th final round at the NHRA season opener, but first since 2014.

“To beat John Force in the final, that makes for a pretty cool weekend. That Infinite Hero team is just on mean and our car has been amazing,” Beckman said. “There are so many tough people in Funny Car right now. The DSR cars are tough. Robert Hight has always been right there. J.R. Todd, there are a lot of tough cars out there. But there is nothing like beating John Force in the final round. I say that with the ultimate level of respect for that man.

“It is like striking out Babe Ruth. He is the man. He is the standard. But it is pretty cool once in a while to remind him that he is not the only one who can run good.”

Battling a cold throughout much of the weekend, Beckman admitted that he wasn’t entirely sure who won in that final round. Ready to return to his hauler and rest following a grueling afternoon, Beckman immediately perked up upon finding out that he had, in fact, won the race moments later

“I go down there, pull the parachutes, tug on the brake and I saw my win light come on. But nobody is on the radio saying ‘hey we got it done.’” Beckman said. “(Force’s) car shoots out in front of mine, but I am usually real quick on the chute, so ours slows down quick, but that doubt starts creeping up. Was that a win light? Maybe I didn’t see it. So I got on the radio three times, ‘did we win?’ Nothing.

“So they are pushing me off the track and I am preparing myself just in case I saw something that wasn’t there and we didn’t win. I felt like crap, but when they pushed me into the winner’s area, I suddenly felt much better.”

Beckman credits a lot of his success on Sunday to the strong finish the team enjoyed at the end of 2019, along with an offseason eye surgery that made a big difference in his reaction times.

“The reaction times for me have been better all weekend long and I attribute that to just getting my vision checked out,” Beckman said. “I had eye surgery a year-and-a-half ago to get rid of all of the floaters and they literally drained all of the fluid out and my eyesight took a dive after that. I am sensitive about my eyes. I don’t want to do anything that I don’t have to, but it was getting to the point that it was affecting my driving and, let me tell you, a hundredth on the starting line is almost five feet at the finish line. If you can help those guys out on the runs where our car isn’t the quickest and they can help me out the rest of the time, we are going to be tough to get around.

“That makes me feel more confident. Good performance comes from confidence, confidence creates good performances and I just hope it snowballs for us.”

Qualifying second behind the strength of crew chiefs Dean Antonelli and John Medlen, the 2012 world champion eliminated Steven Densham, Ron Capps and Alexis DeJoria on his way to his 64th career nitro final. And each pass produced their own miniature drama.

In round one, Beckman had a small fire at the top end following an eventful pass, but lucked into the second round when Densham’s tires let loose at the hit. “The car goes out there and shakes, but that is the benefit of qualifying second,” Beckman pointed out. “I didn’t know where Steven was. I didn’t see him, but I am not about to turn and look over my shoulder so I pedal the car and it recovers. So Guido says later, ‘did you hear me say shut off?’ If I did I would have, trust me. So it pushed a head gasket out and we had a small fire. It turned out it really wasn’t that big a deal. We didn’t put any oil on the track, it wasn’t that much damage. When you have a great team, even on the short turnarounds, you get that stuff done.”

In round two Beckman saw his DSR teammate go up in flames as Capps lost a cylinder and had a major explosion after the 330-foot lights. In the semifinals, Beckman finally saw it all come together with a strong 3.843 at 332.92 to eliminate DeJoria and end her comeback bid after taking time off from the sport.

Force reached his 256th final with wins over Bob Bode, Tommy Johnson Jr. and No. 1 qualifier Matt Hagan.

With his win on Sunday, Beckman became the 30th different Funny Car winner in Winternationals history and moved into a tie with Del Worsham for eighth overall in the class in wins with 31.

“We were top two every run in qualifying and, except for the first round, we were low ET or second low every single round,” Beckman said. “Our car was just absolutely amazing. And as a driver you don’t want to limp your way into the winner’s circle, you want to be dominant and it was awesome for us.”

Following a tremendous finish to 2019 that saw Beckman finish second in the championship with two wins in the Countdown, a strong test session in Las Vegas one week ago only adds to the confidence that this year carries into the rest of 2020.

“Frankly I fumbled it last year. If I hadn’t screwed up a couple of times in the Countdown, there is a likelihood we would have been world champs. That’s not taking anything away from Robert Hight, but that is some baggage I will carry with me,” Beckman said. “But we tested well and feel really confident right now. There are a lot of teams that go (to testing) and practice. What they do is they go burn parts and try to run quick.

“We tried five different clutch discs, a different set of exhaust valves, spare injectors, spare supercharger, spark intake manifold, we tried new wheels on the back of it, tried running sticker tires. We treated it like, let’s cross all these off the list and see what works for us.

“We didn’t use much of it here, but that is the stuff that, down the road this year, is going to make us a championship contender.”

Written by Larry Crum, photos by Roger Richards, Burghardt Photos

Link to Competition Plus article


Add Jack Beckman’s name to the list of drivers who aren’t in favor of the revisions of NHRA’s Mello Yello Series Countdown to the Championship for the 2020 season.

January 27, 2020 - Beckman, the 2012 NHRA nitro Funny Car world champion, who finished second in the points a year ago a mere eight points behind champion Robert Hight, doesn’t agree with what NHRA has done to the Countdown to the Championship criteria.

As in previous years, the top 10 drivers in each of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series categories at the conclusion of the NHRA U.S. Nationals will earn positions in the Countdown to the Championship.

New for 2020, drivers in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series who meet a minimum set of requirements will also earn their place in the playoffs.

In NHRA’s Top Fuel and Funny Car classes, drivers who compete at all 18 events in the regular season and run a minimum of two qualifying sessions at each event will also earn their place in the playoffs.

“What you’re doing is your taking a broken watch band-aiding pieces on it and taping a sundial on it instead of stepping back and saying, ‘Wait a minute, is there a better way to tell time?’,” Beckman said. “In this case, you need to throw out the baby with the bathwater. It was never a good format. It worked for NASCAR because they can go out there and go a lap down in a race and still go out the entire rest of the race and earn points. We can’t lose first round and get any more points that day. Our sport is not a playoff sport. We can’t sneak back up there for the second round, semifinals and finals after we have lost.”

Beckman, a veteran driver for Don Schumacher Racing, understands the Countdown to the Championship’s purpose for drag racing.

“I have said from the get-go, the Countdown has a huge overarching benefit for the sport,” Beckman said. “That’s create excitement later into the season. Championships have still been locked up before the final race under the Countdown format. I am a fan of doing it the old way. Drag racing is supposed to be about a season-long sport. Our sport doesn’t lend itself to a playoff format in any way shape or form. It would take me 10 minutes to articulate the different points why and I would debate anybody over that. There’s less overall car count right now and that likely is the reason for this decision. I understand this from the sanctioning body’s side of it, at the end of day we need to have a successful sport, so it works for the most amount of people. I get that. I just think there’s a better way to do it.”

Although Beckman finished just eight points from tying and nine points from winning a title in 2019, he still doesn’t believe in the Countdown format.

“We wouldn’t have been close had it not been for the Countdown,” Beckman said. “We would have finished eight rounds out of it, if wasn’t for the Countdown and points-and-a-half at Pomona. So, you go ‘Oh my God, you came within less than a round of winning the championship. Yeah, that’s because Billy’s mom, told Billy to slow down a little bit so the race looked closer.”

Beckman did offer his suggestion to how to conduct the Countdown to the Championship.

“If you have to have a Countdown format race us until Indy, divide everybody’s points by two or divide them by three or divide them by six, I don’t care,” he said. “That way someone who has built a big lead would still enjoy a fraction of that. That way somebody in 10th hasn’t locked up a spot in the top 10 and still has to fight their butt of the rest of the year. That way the guy in 11th or 12th still has a potential shot of racing their way into the top 10 without being given welfare points.”

Unlike some other drivers, Beckman doesn’t see the new Countdown revisions as a token medal.

“At the end of the day, if a guy comes to all 18 races, I don’t think it is a participation trophy,” Beckman said. “Terry McMillen and Scott Palmer would be the perfect examples for this. They would still have a legitimate shot at racing into a top 10 spot, which would mean a huge deal in their search for sponsorship. Again, I can’t say this without saying to me, the critical error of the Countdown is the points reset and the line under No. 10. You don’t just yellow flag the top 10 cars and say that’s it, everybody else goes a lap down at this point even if you’re not. Race us until Indy and cut the points in half or by three, or by four or by 6.2, I don’t care. Race us until Indy and then have a multiplier on the points and bunch the points up, but still keep the proportion of lead that each car enjoyed over the position behind it.”

Beckman proved his point about the points being reset and lost in the case of reigning two-time Top Fuel world champion Steve Torrence in 2019.

“Steve Torrence lost 28 rounds on the reset and he won the championship by one-tenth of a round based on your points-and-a-half at Pomona,” Beckman said. “He would have won the championship by 28 rounds. Is that a fair thing to do? Take a car that was that good all season, and by the way they were still pretty tough in the Countdown, and tell them ‘Sir, you lost the championship.’

By the way, I’m not for points-and-a-half at any race. It makes no sense. The fourth quarter of the Super Bowl is not points-and-half. The ninth inning of the World Series is not points-and-a-half. It makes a lot of sense from the standpoint of excitement for the championship being decided on Sunday at Pomona. I totally understand that. But you know what, life can’t always be scripted and manipulated to end up in a perfect 4-4 tie in the bottom of the ninth in Game 7. Life doesn’t work that way. Listen, if the team sweeps the first three games of the World Series, they don’t take anything away from that team going into Game 4. They could sweep it. Of course, Major League Baseball would love to see it go seven games, it is better for ratings and better for revenue. Of course, it would be awesome for the fans and the sanctioning body (NHRA) if the championship went down to the last day of the season, but we don’t need to manipulate a sport that has so much already to offer.”

After a highly-successful 2019 campaign that saw him win two races – Reading, Pa., and Pomona, both in the Countdown – and five runner-up finishes, Beckman is amped for 2020’s season to begin.

by Tracy Renck Mon, 2020-01-27 15:50
Link to original Competition Plus article


There’s no question that Jack Beckman knows exactly what to do in any type of drag racing vehicle.

After all, he’s taught more than 7,000 students how to drive dragsters, roadsters, funny cars and doorslammers as an instructor at Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School. He’s won NHRA world championships in Super Comp (2003) and Funny Car (2012), and he’s got a combined 30 national-event victories in those two categories.

But what the 52-year-old can’t tell you is what he plans to do when his racing career ends — because he’ll quickly admit he hasn’t got a clue when it comes to that topic.

Unless, that is, he can concoct a way to stretch out on the couch in his Norco, Calif., home and watch History Channel for a living.

“I gave up a great career and pension in the elevator industry” — he’s not kidding — “to go teach full-time at the drag racing school, and that morphed into this, so I really don’t have a retirement plan,” Beckman said last week prior to a runner-up finish to Robert Hight at Topeka. “I thought for years I’d be back fixing elevators again, and I just keep getting another year to do this. It’s already gone way beyond my wildest expectations.”

Back to the topic of broadcasting, replacing a steering wheel with a microphone would be an option of interest to the driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation entry for Don Schumacher Racing. He spent more than a decade teaching people how to drive drag vehicles, and given that type of teaching ability, if you will, it figures that he could explain the finer points of the sport in a way anyone could grasp.

“I think if you gave me my choice the dream job would probably be up in the booth announcing,” Beckman said. “I like that aspect of it, communicating with the fans and educating the newer folks on our sport — but who knows if a position would even be open doing that and if it’s viable.

“If not you might see me mowing lawns for a living, I don’t know.”

If there is a future in cable, over-the-air and streaming broadcasting for Beckman, he acknowledges that there’s more involved than merely opening his mouth and letting fly with stream-of-consciousness commentary.

Much of what newcomers to the sport know is what is “imparted” to them by announcers and analysts, Beckman said.

“From my earliest memories — the Brock Yateses, the Steve Evanses, the Bob Freys, the Alan Reinharts, the Dave Reiffs — now you’ve got the Brian Lohneses and the Bruno Massels,” he said. “Those people, it’s their communication skills that educates our fan base, and once you’ve got a fan base with enough knowledge there are more hardcore fans, now your job is to entertain them.

“So I think that balance of entertainment and education and finding that line on a week-to-week basis, I think that’s really intriguing to me.” The former Air Force sergeant and non-Hodgkins Lymphoma survivor says a unique combination of traits — effective communicator and “fairly slow learner” — would be assets should he have the opportunity to pursue broadcasting after racing.

“I think it’s so easy to talk over people’s heads when you don’t understand what they don’t understand,” he said. “I’m really good at not understanding things and taking a while to get that epiphany that, ‘OK, now I’ve wrapped my head around it.’ I think that gives me a good insight into how a lot of the fans might struggle to understand some of the vernacular and some of the quick-paced action that we’re trying to impart to them on the TV show.”

Beckman described himself as something of a sponge in the sense that he is “an amalgam of everybody I’ve ever met” throughout his life, and that he has matured as a communicator since his pre-pubescent years. At age 12, he said, he was “a big mouth who likes to tell jokes” to overcome shyness.

“Then I think once I got so passionate about drag racing and funneled all my energy into it, learning about it was always a joy, it wasn’t extra work for me,” he said. “You want to talk about the people who are experts in drag racing; your Bob Freys and your Allen Reinharts. It’s statistics, and it’s history, and I thrive on that stuff because I love this sport.

“So I think that Jack Beckman, the race fan, is what turned me into the race car driver and maybe one day, one of the people in the booth.”

by Thomas Pope; Photos by Mark Rebilas, Auto Imagery, Tue, 2019-06-11 20:28