BECKMAN’S AMBUSH OF COURTNEY FORCE FOR TOP FUNNY CAR SPOT SALVES HIS POMONA LETDOWN
No one probably has a recording of the advice Jack Beckman was giving Courtney Force when she attended the Frank Hawley Drag Racing School, preparing to license in the Funny Car class, and he was the instructor. But this imaginary conversation probably never took place:
BECKMAN: Drivers earn their qualifying positions based on their elapsed times.
FORCE: I understand.
BECKMAN: But that rule, like just about every rule, has an exception.
FORCE: And that is . . . ?
BECKMAN: Let’s say you run a 3.845-second elapsed time at, oh, let’s say, 328.70 miles an hour. And that’s the best in the class for the first session of qualifying. Well, let’s say I come along and clock a 3.845, just like you, but my speed is faster – let’s go with 332.43. Then I would be the provisional No. 1 qualifier. I would move ahead of you.
That conversation didn’t happen – but the scenario did Friday on the opening day of the Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, near Phoenix.
Beckman overshadowed early leader Force with his second-session pass in the Infinite Hero Dodge Charger, helping Don Schumacher Racing put a double whammy on the competition in nitro-class qualifying at this second race of the season.
The aptly named “Fast Jack” managed the cool conditions to his advantage on the Chandler, Ariz., 1,000-foot course. He improved five-hundredths of a second with his elapsed time and gained nearly six mph in his evening pass to join other early leaders Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) and Alex Laughlin (Pro Stock).
The cool desert temperatures were tolerable for his thawing-out Indiana-based crew, but Beckman said, “For a California boy, it’s freezing. When it’s this cold, the tracks get so tricky. People think colder’s always better, and it is, to a point. And then it kind of tips over. The track gets so cold that that window for hitting the run just gets real tiny, really small.”
He said after a semifinal finish with a mysterious belt-shredding issue, Friday’s qualifying passes were redeeming and gratifying.
“I like the fact we were able to make back-to-back-runs like that, especially after Pomona. We had a problem in the semifinal. The minute we fired the car up, it was shredding the blower belt. The guys didn’t find anything obvious at the track. They brought the rigs here in Phoenix, left them, flew back to Indy, and restocked stuff, flew back out here two days ago, unloaded, tore things apart, and found the problem,” Beckman said.
The technical troublemaker, he said, was a bearing support on the crankshaft.
“And I love when you find the smoking gun” he said, “because that means you can do things to prevent that from happening again. So to go from that minor letdown at Pomona and come out here and lay two strong runs down, I’m totally satisfied.”
This is one time a Friday-night run will produce useable information for his three crew chiefs, Dean Antonelli, John Medlen, and Neal Strausbaugh.
“Usually, if you have conditions like this, you say, ‘Well, we won’t race in these conditions. Usually those hero runs on Friday night are kind of throwaway data for the crew chiefs, because you won’t see it again. But I think we’re going to see them tomorrow, and I think we’re going to see the same conditions on Sunday,” Beckman said. “So what makes me feel confident is we have great data that probably will get used again in the next two days.”
Two more sessions Saturday will set the field for Sunday eliminations.