With a name like “Fast” Jack Beckman, one is expected to be reasonably speedy.
He lived up to his nickname Sunday the AAA NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park when he defeated his Don Schumacher Racing teammate and reigning Full Throttle Series Funny Car champion Matt Hagan in the final round. The win was part of a DSR sweep of the finals with teammates Antron Brown and Spencer Massey facing off on the Top Fuel side. Brown took the victory, as he has the other two times DSR has swept the NHRA nitro classes (Sonoma, 2012; Brainerd, 2011).
It’s the second time this year Beckman has beaten a teammate for the Wally, the first coming in Topeka, Kans., over Ron Capps, who leads the class standings over Beckman by 30 points.
Beckman earned top qualifier honors of the meet with his 4.049 second ET run Friday night under the lights, a track record, and the time held through two rounds on Saturday. The victory has him batting .500 for his career, his 15th victory in 30 final rounds.
Eliminations kicked off with a win over Team Kalitta rookie driver Alexis DeJoria. Beckman wasn’t finished picking on the Kalitta crew as he topped Jeff Arend, who set a track speed record with a run of 312.93 mph, in E2 after Arend broke on the line. In the semis, two-time class champion Tony Pedregon fell to the eventual winner, leading to his showdown with Hagan.
And a very bizarre battle at the starting line.
Fast Jack was fast when he had to be, but he was anything but off the line in the finals, with a reaction time of .448 seconds. Which was not a problem since Hagan was way early in the other line, firing off .307 seconds before the light turned green.
“Wow,” Beckman said to the assembled media after the race. “From my perspective, you go up there and are ready to squeeze that trigger if anything happens. Noise, then the red light came on, and I saw this big Die Hard logo. I’m like, the tree never came on! I swear it seemed like I got to seven Mississippi before my side came on and then I had a view of Matt’s car mixing up cylinders down there and it certainly was not what I was expecting.”
The situation Beckman is in now is certainly a 180 degree turnaround from what it was after the Las Vegas race in the spring when Capps missed the race and Beckman’s then-crew chief, Rahn Tobler, was moved over to the NAPA team and Todd Smith was given the Valvoline car. Whether it’s good or bad, making a change of that magnitude is never easy and Schumacher acknowledged that he had some trepidation.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to move Rahn Tobler over to Ron Capps’ team, but we really needed to kick that team into gear which was certainly accomplished,” said the multi-time NHRA champion team owner. “I had tried to hire Todd Smith about three years ago. He had a different philosophy about how to run a car that wouldn’t have fit into my organization. After (Kenny) Bernstein shut his team down and Todd sat on the sidelines for a little bit, he’s come in with a philosophy … he’s a team member. He’s doing a great, great job.”
For his part, Beckman, who is on his seventh crew chief at DSR by his count, never doubted Schumacher, saying every tuner he’s ever worked with at the team has provided him with a car that can win at any given track at any given race.
“When we made the change early in the year, I knew at that point, having six crew chiefs in the past, you never second guess Don,” Beckman said. “He’s thought about this. He gets this stuff! Here’s the thing about Don. He’s driven the cars, so you can’t BS him about that. He’s tuned the cars, so the crew chiefs can’t BS him about that. He can look at the computer and tell you what’s going on. He can look at the car the first one hundred feet and tell you what’s going on.”
Beckman and the rest of the NHRA Full Throttle Series head to Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Penn., for the fourth race in the Countdown to the Championship.
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