Sometimes when you survive the stormy seas of turmoil, fate has a way of calming the choppy waters. Fate was the difference between Jack Beckman winning Funny Car race No. 700 and not his teammate Ron Capps.
The race number was decided long before Beckman defeated Capps in the final round of the recently completed Dollar General NHRA Summernationals in Topeka, Kan.
Because there was no Funny Car eliminator contested at the 1981 NHRA Cajun Nationals in Baton Rouge, due to the first successfully staged boycott, Beckman scored win No. 700 instead of 701. Capps’ victory in Commerce, Ga., would have been No. 700.
“That’s very interesting, I remember reading about that a while back,” said Beckman, with a chuckle. “I’m just happy to be a winner – be it 699, 700 or 701. I still have a chance to be 701. I wouldn’t say that what I believe in is called Karma. I just always sense that if we all treat each other kindly it all works out. I guess it’s what we can describe as good fortunate and a good CAR-ma.”
Why did the Funny Car class boycott and why was it successful? The bottom line is the Funny Car drivers wanted larger purses and when group negotiator Billy Meyer couldn’t reach a deal with the NHRA’s Dallas Gardner, the group stayed home.
Ensuring no one effectively broke the “picket line” was Raymond Beadle, who according to former NHRA Public Relations Manager Steve Earwood was the group’s “Sergeant-at-Arms”.
Had the Cajun Nationals boycott failed, history would have revised other milestones such as John Force being the first to 200 to Mike Dunn in 1988. Force would have then been the first to 300 in 1994, replacing Gordie Bonin, also the first driver to 100. Gary Scelzi was scored win No. 499 which would have displaced Gary Densham’s role. Force and Robert Hight still would have retained their spots as winners of No. 400 and No. 600 respectively.
Though fate cost him a shot at 700, Capps is optimistic about the future.
“I want to be the 800th winner,” Capps proclaims. “You never realize this until these kinds of stats come up. This is a stat I never realized and to see our Atlanta win could have been No. 700 is pretty amazing when you look at the way it all played out.
“I would like to be around when race No. 1000 comes around and doing well.”
He definitely would like to win race number 1000, not that winning 999 wouldn’t be great.
“It’s kind of like you’re the guy in line at the store and unknowingly they are going to give the 1,000 customer a million bucks and you lose because you let someone go ahead of you because they had less items,” said Capps.
Beckman believes the wins between the teammates happened when they should have.
“You look at what they’ve done with the NAPA car, they’ve been in four finals in a row,” explained Beckman. “The thing about that car is it goes down the track with every run. I believe they’ve only smoked the tires once in the last forty runs or so. That was a qualifying run at Charlotte. What that means is the car has been down the track every elimination run dating back to Vegas when I was behind the wheel. I think they needed to perform well immediately for NAPA. I think we needed to win to vindicate Don’s decision to make the changes, and also for the guys who were crewing on the Valvoline car who have been through two drivers and four crew chiefs in the last few years.”
Beckman also added each racer sets out to win every race and if there’s a milestone, it’s just icing on the cake.
“It’s one of those things where you ask, ‘Did Robert Hight set out to be the 600th winner?’ No, but now that he has done it – it is something he can look back on and have pride. It’s pretty cool, sure.
And ironically, the Topeka win tied Beckman with Beadle on the all-time wins list, one of the legends who made it possible.
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