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Aug 27, 2014 - 06:23 AM
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2014 NHRA: Jack Beckman NHRA U.S. Nationals Event Preview
Posted by: newsla on Aug 27, 2014 - 06:23 AM
2014 NHRA: Jack Beckman NHRA U.S. Nationals Event Preview

The last event of the regular season and the U.S. Nationals is not the best time to be looking for a fresh start, but that's exactly what Jack Beckman and Don Schumacher Racing's Valvoline SynPower Dodge Charger R/T team needs.


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And the 2012 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car world champion believes there is no better time than the present for that to happen.

Jack is in a position that he's never experienced since joining DSR in the fall of 2006 as a full-time professional racer: This weekend's U.S. Nationals is the 16th event of the 24-event season and he has not locked up a spot in the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff that opens in two weeks near Charlotte.

What happens over Labor Day Weekend in the 60th annual U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway near Indianapolis will determine if he has a chance to win the third world championship of his career and second Mello Yello crown in the past three seasons.

"We've put ourselves in a position where we have to be (darn) near flawless at Indy to get in the Countdown. Now it's a battle," he said of the regular season's last race. "The only thing I can think about right now is Indy. Our goal is to run for the championship, which it isn't possible to do if we're not in the Countdown. If we can't get this Valvoline Dodge into the Countdown, I'd be devastated."

Jack and his Valvoline Dodge team led by new crew chief Todd Okuhara, the director of racing at DSR, will start the U.S. Nationals ranked 11th in the standings and 16 points behind No. 10 Tim Wilkerson. Each driver can earn 20 points per round during Monday's championship eliminations so Wilkerson is within reach.

"We've painted ourselves into a corner," Jack said.

And Jack doesn't have to wait until eliminations to experience drama.

A year ago, he won the Traxxas Nitro Shootout in Funny Car at Indy and a $100,000 bonus for DSR but will have to wait until Wednesday afternoon to find out if he will have a chance to defend his title.

Last year, the first six drivers to win a Mello Yello event title were seeded into the eight-car field with the seventh spot, which Jack received, going to the non-winning driver with the most points. The last position was filled by a fan-vote.

This year's format is different with the first seven winners of 2014 getting into the Shootout and the eighth and final spot going to a driver in a fan-vote weighted lottery that will be held at Monument Circle in Downtown Indianapolis on Wednesday that is part of a Fanfest that will include a free autograph session.

Wednesday's Fanfest will be followed by a visit to Riley Hospital by Jack and his DSR teammates before they spend Friday afternoon at DSR's ninth annual Open House at its headquarters (1681 E. Northfield Dr., Brownsburg, Ind.) about 2 miles from Lucas Oil Raceway.

Jack Beckman, Valvoline SynPower Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
Last event Brainerd (Aug. 17): Qualified No. 10; lost in quarterfinals to Ron Capps
A year ago at U.S. Nationals: Qualified No. 8; lost in championship round to Robert Hight; won Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Funny Cars
Career at U.S. Nationals: Wins 0; Runner-ups 2 (2013, 2008); Poles 0; All-star/Invitational event titles 2 (2007, 2013)

Pts Events Titles Rup Semi Qtr 1st rd Poles DNQ Win/Loss
2014 11th 17 0 1 2 6 8 0 0 13-17
CAREER 197 15 20 37 57 62 10 6 250-176
Best Time, Speed: 3.986 sec. (10-6-12, Reading, Pa.); 320.30 mph (4-15-12, Charlotte 1)

(Official after 17 of 24 events; DSR drivers in CAPS; * clinched spot in Countdown to the Championship)
driver (wins) points behind
1. *Robert Hight (5) 1,326 ------
2. *John Force (3) 1,308 -18
3.* RON CAPPS (1) 1,090 -236
4.* TOMMY JOHNSON JR. (1) 1,052 -274
5.* Alexis DeJoria (2) 1,035 -291
6.* Courtney Force (2) 1,015 -311
7.* MATT HAGAN (1) 1,009 -317
8. Cruz Pedregon (1) 929 -397
9. Del Worsham 900 -426
10. Tim Wilkerson 848 -478
11. JACK BECKMAN 832 -494

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