Jack Beckman and his team have been perplexed for the last week.
Following a No. 1 qualifying run on Friday evening in St. Louis, his Dodge Charger Funny Car fell off the pace by .02 seconds. The team, while still winning the race, changed three different superchargers, three short blocks, data recorder, fuel pump and even replaced ignition systems twice.
A week later the car still had bad ju-ju going on.
On Friday evening at Maple Grove Raceway, an oil-down during the evening session would seemingly fix the teams ills. The ironic part is the oil-down didn’t belong to Beckman.
The oil-down belonged to Lesenko, who ran in the pair before Beckman scheduled to run at the Auto Plus NHRA Nationals. Only after Beckman had performed his burnout did NHRA Race officials give him the command to shut the car down. Beckman and qualifying partner Jeff Arend were given the option to return to the pits, service their cars and return as the last pair in the session.
Beckman’s team made barely made their way back to the staging lanes in time to run but what followed left the Schumacher Electric-sponsored team scratching their heads.
Beckman thundered to not only the No. 1 qualifying position but also a provisional world record of 3.989 seconds at 320.58 miles per hour.
“It’s hard to think we were down on power after that run,” said Beckman. “I’m just not sure if we tuned around the problem or if suddenly we found it. It’s ridiculous to ask how you just lose power in one of these cars. We’ve just been chasing issues.
“We went back to the pits and changed the clutch. They strapped me in, in the pits, and towed me back up. I’m not so certain it isn’t scarier being towed to the staging lanes. We got up there just in time because the rules state you can go back to the pits but you must be back before the category begins. I’m not saying we could do this every time. If I thought it would work, I would. I was just so impressed to see my team face so much challenge and step up for that run and get it perfect.”
Beckman believes getting shut-off can sometimes be a hassle but the right call was made.
Instead of chastising the NHRA Safety Safari crew member who made the decision to reveal he’d found oil on the track, Beckman was full of praise and admiration for a person he said exhibited character.
“I was surprised they started us so quickly, but what I love most about what NHRA did; the track observer had the guts to radio in that something was on the track and they didn’t think it was safe,” said Beckman. “That’s a tough call for someone to make. Then the NHRA said to shut the cars off – I appreciate that. It was a hassle, a pain in the butt. It would have been frustrating if we didn’t run well when we went back out there. That is putting your money where your mouth is when you say safety is paramount. I truly appreciate that.”
If Beckman’s run holds, it will be the fourth of his career.
“I’m not sure that run is safe,” admitted Beckman. “I’m not a weather guy and I can tell you there is nothing wrong with this race track. As long as the track doesn’t get too warm, I’m not so sure another car or two won’t put up another three-second run.”
For now Beckman is counting the points with impending weather forecast for Saturday. If Saturday qualifying is washed out and the fields are set, with Capps outside of the field Beckman could pull into a tie with a first round win or the lead with a win and a back-up of the record.
“Anybody who says they don’t count points is either terrible at math or a liar,” said Beckman. “I think we are going to have to look at taking a shot at the record since we are securely qualified.”
Beckman will need a 4.023 to make the run an official record. If he can run as quick as 3.95-seconds the Friday run would serve as a back-up.
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