2013 NHRA: Jack Beckman NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway Event Preview
Jack Beckman is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force but he's in the midst of a march that would make any foot soldier proud.
While he continues his battle to win the first NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series title of this season for Don Schumacher Racing's Odyssey Battery team, his aim is focused on defending his 2012 Funny Car world championship.
When Beckman arrived at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis last weekend for the third event of the Countdown to the Championship he was ranked sixth in the standings and trailed points leader and DSR teammate Matt Hagan by 102 points.
But along with crew chiefs Todd Smith, assistant Terry Snyder and the Odyssey team, Beckman advanced to the championship round and eliminated Hagan in the second round.
That moved Beckman to third in points and narrowed the gap between him and the lead to 44 points.
"Had Hagan beat us at Gateway and won nothing more than that we would be 104 behind him going to Reading," Beckman said of this weekend's event at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa. "You do not want to be five rounds out with 12 rounds to go.
"When people say there are 12 rounds left it's not like baseball and there are 12 games left; in our sport, if you lose in the second round of a race you just lost three rounds because you can't get to the semis or final."
It was the second consecutive event when Beckman took out Hagan in the second round.
"After Reading there will only be the potential of eight rounds of racing left. You better be within two rounds of the leaders if you want to win the championship."
A year ago at Reading, Beckman started second in points and trailing DSR's Ron Capps by 30. Beckman eliminated Capps in the second round en route to advancing to the semifinals. Beckman also earned 20 bonus points for setting the NHRA national record with a run of 3.986 seconds in opening round.
Beckman left Maple Grove with a 23-point lead over Capps and won the championship by a record two points.
"If we win this championship again then I'm going to probably say that St. Louis was the turning point," said Beckman, who points to last year's event at Maple Grove as his 2012 turning point. "We're back to where we know what the car wants, and Todd and Terry are able to give it that."
Beckman expects his year-old national record could be surpassed.
"When the track temperature is down in the low 80s and the track surface is good we can give it almost all the power it will handle out there. It can be the perfect convergence of conditions for us."
But Beckman and his team plan to focus more on earning between one and three bonus points in each qualifying session that the record.
"Forget the national record and those 20 points, that run was the quickest in that session and worth three points and we won the championship by two points."
JACK BECKMAN, Oddysey Battery/Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger R/T
Last event (Sept. 27-29, Madison, Ill.): Qualified No. 8; lost in championship round to John Force.
A year ago at Maple Grove: Qualified No. 1; lost in semifinals to Johnny Gray.
Career at Maple Grove: Wins 1 (2008); runner-ups 0; poles 1 (2012).
Pts Events Titles Rup Semi Qtr 1st rd Poles DNQ W/L
2013 3rd 21 0 3 6 8 3 1 0 29-21
CAREER 177 15 19 34 51 52 11 6 235-156
Best Time, Speed
3.986 sec. ** (10-7-12, Reading, Pa.), 320.58 mph ** (10-5-12, Reading); ** NHRA record
NHRA COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
(Official through Sept. 29 near St. Louis; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. MATT HAGAN 2,336 (--)
2. John Force 2,330 (-6)
3. JACK BECKMAN 2,292 (-44)
4. Robert Hight 2,288 (-48)
5. Cruz Pedregon 2,253 (-83)
6. RON CAPPS 2,225 (-111)
7. Courtney Force 2,202 (-134)
8. JOHNNY GRAY 2,187 (-149)
9. Tim Wilkerson 2,142 (-194)
10. Del Worsham 2,142 (-194)
2013 REGULAR SEASON WINNERS: C. Force, CAPPS, GRAY, C. Pedregon, HAGAN, C. Pedregon, GRAY, GRAY, HAGAN, J. Force, C. Force, HAGAN, GRAY, C. Pedregon, CAPPS, HAGAN, CAPPS, Hight.
2013 COUNTDOWN WINNERS: Hight (Charlotte), C. Pedregon (Dallas), J. Force (St. Louis).
NHRA NATIONALS NEAR READING
SCHEDULE (Times are ET)
Friday: 2 p.m., 5 p.m., nitro qualifying
Saturday: Noon, 3 p.m., nitro qualifying
Sunday: 11 a.m., championship eliminations
Sunday: 8 p.m. (ET), championship eliminations, delayed
WEATHER.COM FORECAST MOHNTON, PA.
(As of Tuesday afternoon)
Friday: High 81; 10 percent chance rain
Saturday: High 82; 20 percent chance of rain
Sunday: High 80; 20 percent chance of rain
NHRA COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE/RESULTS
Sept. 13-15 Charlotte, N.C.
(Finals: TF/Lucas def. MASSEY; FC/Hight def. HAGAN)
Sept. 19-22 Texas Motorplex, Dallas
(Finals: TF/Kalitta def. Langdon; FC/C. Pedregon def. J. Force)
Sept. 27-29 Gateway Motorsports Park, St. Louis
(TF/BROWN def. alBalooshi; FC/J. Force def. BECKMAN)
Oct. 3-6 Maple Grove Raceway, Reading, Pa.
Oct. 24-27 Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas
Nov. 7-10 Auto Club Raceway, Pomona