2012 NHRA: Jack Beckman Reading NHRA Event Preview
Jack Beckman was disheartened after his Valvoline NextGen Funny Car team failed to qualify for the fifth event of the 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season.
The normally loquacious Beckman was not very talkative that Sunday except when he stood at the back of his race team's pit area and signed autographs with a somewhat forced smile.
After finishing runner-up for the Funny Car world championship the past season, he started strong with three top-three qualifying efforts and advancing to three semifinals and was third in points.
Then, Don Schumacher, owner of the Don Schumacher Racing juggernaut that fields seven nitro teams, made a decision to move Beckman's crew chief, Rahn Tobler, to the team of Ron Capps. Schumacher also let Tobler take his crew then reassigned Capps' former crew and assistant crew chief Terry Snyder to join Beckman.
The new leader of the Valvoline NextGen team was Todd Smith, a veteran tuner of Top Fuel Dragsters but the Oklahoman had never tuned a Funny Car.
Beckman didn't qualify for his second event with Smith and fell to sixth in the standings. Beckman was outwardly optimistic, but most likely inside he was skeptical.
But two events later in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, Smith and assistant crew chief Terry Snyder put Beckman in the winner's circle in at Topeka, Kan.
And near St. Louis last weekend, Beckman took over winner's circle the third time this season and will be only 30 points behind points leader Capps when qualifying begins Friday at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa.
"I told Todd three weeks ago I had high expectations when he joined us, but I had no idea you would be this good, Beckman said.
"Sometimes change is difficult; adding teams, moving drivers. I think I've had seven different crew chiefs since I started with DSR in 2006. And now we're in the hunt with three races left."
Schumacher said, "It wasn't an easy decision, but we really needed to kick Ron's team in gear and it did that.
"Todd is a team member and doing an awesome job and accepting what we're doing inside DSR. And Terry Snyder really has done an awesome, awesome job over there."
Capps and Tobler and moved into the points lead before the prestigious U.S. Nationals near Indianapolis to be the top seed in the six-event Countdown to the Championship and started the playoff three weeks ago near Charlotte to win their title of the season.
Beckman was the third seed to start the Countdown and when the series arrived in Madison, Ill., last week he was third in points and trailed Capps by a what seemed to be a nearly insurmountable 96-point lead.
When qualifying opens Friday at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa., Beckman will trail Capps by only 30 points, which is not a lot considering a team this weekend can earn 12 bonus points in qualifying and each round win on Sunday is worth 20 points.
"It's nice to know that we have a car that can challenge for the championship," Beckman said.
"(Winning at St. Louis) wasn't do or die, but it was getting pretty close. It's awesome to know that we have three races to go and are only 30 points back.
"All we want is a fighting chance going into Pomona."
JACK BECKMAN, Schumacher Electric/Valvoline NextGen Dodge Charger R/T
Career at Maple Grove Raceway: Wins 1 (2008), Runner-ups 0, Poles 0
2011 at Maple Grove Raceway: Qualified No. 5; lost to Bob Tasca III in first round
2012 Pts Races Titles Rup Poles DNQ Win/Loss
2nd 20 3 0 3 1 31-16
Career Races Titles Rup Poles DNQ Win/Loss
153 15 15 7 6 199-132
NHRA FULL THROTTLE STANDINGS
Countdown to the Championship
(Thru Sept. 30, 2012; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. RON CAPPS, 2,361
2. JACK BECKMAN, 2,331
3. Mike Neff, 2,262
4. Cruz Pedregon, 2,202
5. Tim Wilkerson, 2,197
6. Courtney Force, 2,180
7. Robert Hight, 2,179
8. JOHNNY GRAY, 2,149
9. Jeff Arend, 2,148
10. John Force, 2,143
11. MATT HAGAN, 1077
NEXT FULL THROTTLE EVENT: Reading, Pa.
Friday: Qualifying, 2 p.m., 5 p.m.
Saturday: Qualifying, Noon, 3p.m.
Sunday: Championship eliminations, 11 a.m.
(Times are ET, schedule subject to change)
SUNDAY: Qualifying, 12:30 a.m., 6 p.m.
SUNDAY: Eliminations, 7 p.m.
FRIDAY: High 79; 10 percent chance of rain
SATURDAY: High 64; 40 percent chance of showers
SUNDAY: High 55; 40 percent chance of showers
UPCOMING FULL THROTTLE EVENTS
Oct. 25-28, Big O Tires NHRA Nationals, Las Vegas
Nov. 8-11, Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, Pomona, Calif.