2013 NHRA: Jack Beckman NHRA Southern Nationals Event Preview
Jack Beckman gets to star in two celebrations this week around Atlanta and to be a guest at another festive event before the NHRA Southern Nationals begins Friday at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga.
Beckman will be honored with past and current NHRA world champions Wednesday evening with a dinner hosted by Coca-Cola that will salute the 2012 NHRA world champions.
On Thursday, the reigning NHRA Funny Car world champion's day begins at the Gunter Annex of Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala., where the former Air Force sergeant will be presented with the U.S. Air Force Wall of Achievers honor in Enlisted Heritage Hall.
"It's cool that Coca-Cola is treating all the NHRA champions to a dinner in Atlanta, which is a very awesome thing," Beckman said. "At Maxwell, one of my fellow Airmen who stayed in after I got out, Bruce Stansel, is going to attend. It's an honor and even more special because Bruce will be there."
Beckman, a former Air Force sergeant and Avionics Technician on the F-111D, joins an impressive list of former enlisted airmen receiving the honor including President George W. Bush, Brigadier General Chuck Yeager, singers Johnny Cash and Gene Autry, actor Charlton Heston and comedian Flip Wilson.
Heritage Hall presents tributes to enlisted men and women who have contributed to the growth and development of the United States Air Force.
Beckman, who also is an NHRA Super Comp world champion, recalls losing interest in high school and dropping out. At 17, he earned his GED before passing the Armed Services test and enlisting.
And then he heads to Talladega Superspeedway where his team owner, Don Schumacher, will be enshrined in the prestigious International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Schumacher will be the 11th member of the drag racing community to join the Hall when he is inducted with NASCAR stalwarts Rick Hendrick, Rusty Wallace and Dale Inman.
"Don is getting inducted more for what he's done as an owner than a driver," Beckman said. "He won five national events when there were only seven NHRA national events a year and his career was so short. He quit racing to go run Schumacher Electric, but had he stayed in NHRA, and they ran the 24 national events like we do today, he'd have 20 or 30 national event titles under his belt while wearing the helmet.
"Don's done if from every aspect: driver/owner/crew chief. It's very rewarding to be around Don throughout a season and gather some of his wisdom. He gets it. He understands the importance of putting people in the right positions and letting them do their jobs.
"He's watched more nitro cars from the starting line than anybody other than the NHRA starter. He's about as well rounded in NHRA drag racing as anyone who's ever been out there."
ON TRACK: Beckman has enjoyed success at Atlanta Dragway, winning titles in 2008 and 2011.
"I don't get too caught up when we go back to a track where we've done horribly or had amazing success. It's always a new race in a new year. It's always a fresh start when you roll in, but it's nice to go back to a track like Atlanta where I have stood in the winner's circle before."
JACK'S TRACK STATS
Last event (April 26-28, Houston): Qualified No. 4; lost in second round to Alexis DeJoria
A year ago at Atlanta: Qualified No. 8; lost in first round to Courtney Force
Career at Atlanta: Wins 2 (2011, 2008); runner-ups 0; poles 0
THIS WEEKEND AT COMMERCE, GA.
Southern NHRA Nationals, Atlanta Dragway, Commerce, Ga.
Friday: 5 and 7 p.m., nitro qualifying
Saturday: 1 and 3 p.m., nitro qualifying
Sunday: 11 a.m., championship eliminations
Saturday: 6-8 p.m. (ET), qualifying
Sunday: 8-10 p.m. (ET), eliminations
Pts Races Titles Rup Semi Poles DNQ Win/Loss
2013 7th 6 0 0 0 1 0 5-6
CAREER 162 15 16 29 8 6 211-141
JACK'S BEST TIME, SPEED
3.986** (10-7-12, Reading., Pa.); 320.58** (10-5-12, Reading); ** NHRA national record
NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series
(Standings after 6 of 24 events; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. Cruz Pedregon, 470
2. MATT HAGAN, 433
3. Courtney Force, 384
4. RON CAPPS, 381
5. JOHNNY GRAY, 362
6. Tim Wilkerson, 348
7. JACK BECKMAN, 318
8. Robert Hight, 308
9. Alexis DeJoria, 295
10. Bob Tasca III, 293
2013 EVENT WINNERS: C. Force, CAPPS, GRAY, C. Pedregon, HAGAN, C. Pedregon