:::::: Feature Stories ::::::

JACK BECKMAN IS LIVING THE DREAM

11-26-06-jackbeckman.jpgThanksgiving is time for
reflection and gratitude. No one understands that more than NHRA competitor
Jack Beckman, who is very thankful after the past few years has seen him
experience more highs and low and ups and downs than a Yo-yo toy.

But now the prognosis
looks good for the former sportsman veteran, who ended the 2006 season as the
hottest driver on the POWERade Series circuit, winning one national event with
one runner-up at the final two events. He also set Funny Car national records
for E.T. (4.662 seconds) and speed (333.66).

Yes, these days it's very
exciting to be Jack Beckman.

NORTHWIND RESTORATION, PART 3

11-21-06-northwind.jpgIn
the last episode, the Northwind Top Fuel dragster, the car that shocked the
racing industry by winning the Drag News #1 spot in’65, had finally been found
in a garage in Vancouver, British Columbia. It had been stored there
for nearly thirty years. It was at that point in the story that the hard work
really began, as Jack Coonrod had to sort through and find all the missing
pieces of the car and create a schedule to complete the restoration.


In
early 2006 Jack brought the car back to the U.S. and moved it into his
Vancouver, Washington, shop. The car hardly resembled
the beautiful hot rod it had been in the mid-sixties when it was a full-bodied
fueler with gold-flake paint. The over-the-roll-bar body was pretty rare back
in those days, making the car resemble a streamliner from the Bonneville
Salt Flats. It had been a beautiful racing machine then but the
thirty years of storage had been hard on the Northwind. 

SIDEBAR - A PARTIAL LIST OF NHRA’S MEDIA SUCCESSES IN 2006

These are not listed in
chronological or order of importance, but each is significant in its own way.

AWASH IN A SEA OF INK

11-20-06-seaofink.jpgDrag racing is a hard sell to much of the so-called “straight press,”
and it’s with considerable irony that we point out the reason for some
of the sport’s difficulties in this area rest with – the press
itself. Forty years ago it wasn’t uncommon for a major metropolitan
daily’s second section to be headlined, “Speeding Drag Racer Loses
Control: 2 Die In Fiery Crash.” With slight alteration that same
headline could have appeared 20 years ago, 10 years ago or even last
week – and in some city, somewhere, probably did.

For decades the NHRA’s myriad public relations managers fought a losing
battle in trying to convince the press that an alcohol-fueled teenager
killed in an illegal speed contest was not, in fact, a “drag racer,”
nor was that “stoplight Grand Prix” even a drag race. It’s nothing
short of amazing how an activity as basic as drag racing can so often
be misidentified or inaccurately defined. Watch any NASCAR race and the
announcers – who should know better – consistently state “It’s a drag
race to the first corner,” when in actuality, nothing could be further
from the truth.

STRAIGHT AHEAD

11-19-06-jeffwolf_2.jpg
The greatest weekend perhaps ever in the illustrious history of drag racing was marred by a driver disobeying a direct order.

Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher’s record run in the final round against
Doug Kalitta gave him his third straight Top Fuel championship during
the Pomona finals.

John Force beat Ron Capps in the second round to clinch his 14th world
title and proved that old men can still react better than a young one.
The quicker reaction propelled him to his 122nd event title and a win
over Jack Beckman’s record-setting flash down the quarter-mile.

SO CLOSE, AGAIN

11-16-06-cappsclose.jpgIt was the type of season
that most NHRA competitors dream about.

Funny Car veteran Ron
Capps won a class-best five national events in eight final rounds, led the
POWERade Series standings after 17 of the circuit's 23 races and earned his
sixth top-five finish in the past 10 years. But once the tire smoke of another
season had cleared, John Force had won his 14th Funny Car title and Capps could
only think of what might have been.

"It's very
disappointing to give up what we thought was a pretty good chance to win a
championship," Capps said. "Even when we led by as much as (122
points), I kept telling the media who was saying we were going to wrap it up
early, 'You can't count out John Force.' And sure enough it came down to that.

ETCHING HIS NICHE

11-13-06-josh599.jpgJosh Hernandez, who just completed his second season in the AMS Leasing
Pro Mod Challenge, may eventually go on to bigger and better things.

He may win more races, earn championships and set records. But in all
likelihood, he will be remembered for his pass down the quartermile on
Oct. 22.

OH BROTHER!

11-12-06-hines.jpgAs a competitor, Matt Hines had very few peers.


The California native was the first NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle rider to
earn three consecutive class championships and his 30 national event
victories ranks 18th on the all-time win list.

His resume behind the scenes is just as impressive. Hines, who stepped
off the bike prior to the 2003 season, has played a major role in the
recent dominance of the Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson V-Rod that his
younger brother, Andrew, has rode to the past three POWERade Series
titles. And Hines, who helps tune both his sibling's V-Rod and the team
bike driven by GT Tonglet, isn't sure what the bigger thrill is:
Winning while on the back of drag bike in just over seven seconds, or
from behind the starting line, watching the bike he tuned score another
round victory.

ANOTHER BOUNTY HUNTER

11-7-06-kalitta.jpg
At first glance, it appears to be just another case of racing nepotism.
But Doug Kalitta has proven over the past nine seasons that the choice
to put him in the Kalitta Motorsports dragster may have been more by
deed rather than bloodlines

Kalitta, who drives a Top Fuel entry for uncle Connie Kalitta, has
become one of the top competitors in the sport, winning 29 national
events while being a perennial top-10 competitor. Now, after finishing
second twice and third once during the past three seasons, he's on the
verge of winning a POWERade Series championship, a prize that's his if
he and his Mac Tools team can take care of business during this
weekend's 42nd annual Automobile Club of Southern California Finals at
Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

UP FRONT with Jon Asher

11-6-06-asher.jpg

Getting the National Hot Rod Association to admit there have been
mistakes in their operations, and that maybe changes should be made in
the way they do things is somewhat akin to getting Congress to admit
there have been ethical lapses by some of its members.

Historically, the NHRA has seldom, if ever, been receptive to ideas
that come from outsiders, and all too often, from those inside the
confines of 2035 Financial Way as well. Part of that is a result of the
corporate life and isn’t necessarily endemic to the organization. It
happens in companies of all sizes, particularly those in which, for
whatever reason, executives constantly fear for their personal future
with the firm, and often make questionable moves more designed to
protect those futures than to advance the company’s goals. It’s in
those environments where a worker bee’s suggestion will be advanced by
the boss and claimed as his own if the uber boss likes it, or will be
just as quickly abandoned by that middle manager when the uber leader
turns up his nose in distaste. The middle manager is the one likely to
say, “Well, it wasn’t my idea. That one came from So-and-So, and I
promised to present it to you. I didn’t like it either, but I did
promise.” Sure you did!

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