beckman semiJack Beckman was furious after his semi-final loss to Robert Hight. It was the way in which he lost which infuriated him.

Computer readouts said Beckman had a foul-start of .100

An hour after the loss Beckman was still seeking an answer. In his opinion, the answer should be a computer malfunction.

Beckman explained, “The NHRA has a stage lock beam more designed for the Super Comp and Super Gas cars with a trans-brake for when they deck the throttle, sometimes those cars will back up a half-inch. It’s designed to keep that from causing a red-light. A red-light happens when the stage beam reestablishes before the green light comes on.”

Beckman says simply the stage beam reestablished and his car didn’t move.

“We got an elapsed time a tenth-and-a-half slower than what our car ran with a reaction time a tenth-and-a-half quicker than what we had,” Beckman said, referencing the car’s on-board computer.

“It’s difficult to be in a sport where electronics always decide the winner. It should be an exact science. And occasionally you are going to get some kind of glitch. You just hope they don’t decide a race. I’m not sure if they did or not in that case. It wasn’t a red-light and we certainly didn’t only run a 4.22.”

Beckman said he took his gripe to Graham Light, NHRA Vice-President of Competition, to which he was told the decision couldn’t be overturned.

Beckman contends earlier in the weekend a similar situation happened to fellow racer Jeff Arend. Arend was not available for comment on the situation.

The bottom line for Beckman is the timing system isn’t 100-percent foolproof.

“It wasn’t in the Steve Johnson Indy final round,” said Beckman. “The thing about the Steve Johnson incident was that it was the final round. You didn’t need to re-run anything. They had time to look at it. It was irrefutable and his bike was in the lead at the finish line. With ours, it was a starting line stage beam issue. You’re not really going to see that on video. But I will guarantee you that my car does not move a tenth of a second before Robert Hight. I guarantee you will see that.

“In fact, I got on the radio when I reached the shutdown and told my team, ‘I know I saw the yellow.’ To be that red, you would have to be pushing the throttle down well before the amber lights came on.”

Beckman admits to staging razor thin and said he has video proof to back up his allegations.

“[The video will show] the moment you see flames coming from my pipes the pre-stage and stage beams both go off and the red-light comes on. But … the car hasn’t moved. The cars, if you’re shallow staged, have to move 13-and-a-half inches, with the two inch stagger in the front end, to leave the stage beam. Our car moved ZERO inches and somehow that stage beam reestablished.”

Jeff Foster of Compulink, the official timing system provider for the NHRA, said he hadn’t watched the video but has extensively studied his equipment and believes there was no malfunction.

Foster, according to those close to him who have watched the video, believes with the car’s first movements the stage and pre-stage lights both went out at the same time.

“When pre-stage and stage go out at the same time, the first beam to reestablish itself is the stage beam. He [Jack] was [staged] really shallow. The initial thought is that he was so shallow the movement of the car was just up enough that the beam shot in front of the tire.”

Foster dismisses Beckman’s notion that the stage lock beam had any effect on this situation.

“That is totally a safety valve and is tested at the first of the race. It doesn’t get tested daily because it takes multiple people to do it. It’s there; it’s installed and seems to be working. It’s a safety valve and not part of the initial system, it’s not a guaranteed part of the system. It’s like incremental times, they are there but not guaranteed. I have no alarm on that to know if it’s not working. It’s an add-on to try and help racers and not to make a race happen.”

Any chance this wasn’t a red-light as Beckman alleged?

Foster wouldn’t say whether his system had failed but pointed out he had done his due diligence in investigating and could find no fault.

“They had two Pro Stock cars right after that and if anyone was going to have a problem, it would have been the Pro Stockers to it because of the guard beams and everything that’s going on down there,” said Foster. “Three other fuel cars ran in that line – vibration – I checked that. Everything was clean and spot on. It was square.

“I didn’t take the roll-out wheel and measure everything again because I had just done that an hour prior. Everything appears to be in line working condition. My gut feeling is that he was so shallow … because I know how Jack stages … that he was so shallow that stage lock probably isn’t working or working correctly at this point and time. And, the car moved enough that it moved around the tire. If you’re that shallow, and he [Jack] admits he was that he was super shallow, he’s living by the sword and dying by the sword. He’s looking for that low elapsed time and hoping that stage lock is going to save him.”

Foster doesn’t anticipate watching the video will change his mind as to what happened.

“The video is going to show me, with both stage and pre-stage going out at the same time, and because of the way our system is designed, that if the stage light goes out, it will lock the pre-stage off, so we don’t get that flicker that we used to get. If it was a true forward movement and something failed, the pre-stage bulb would have gone out first before the stage.”

Foster believes the tire moving upward caused this issue.

“Robert got to the finish line first,” Foster said. “Even if Jack would have been .001 red, this is still a heads-up category … if the mathematic would have figured up that Jack got to the finish line first … different story. When the video and everything shows Robert there first, there’s no question on who won the race. The question becomes what happened on the starting line with Jack.”

For Beckman, he just wants to prevent an issue of this magnitude happening again.

"I’m not here with sour grapes or make excuses," said Beckman. "Our sport is a very exact sport there are no subjectivity. There’s an electronic system with one winner and one loser. When you get something like that crop up ...oops. Will it happen again? How often will it happen? These cars take a $100,000 a weekend to run them. To have a race decided like that is a potentially enormous issue. I hope that NHRA looks at this. I hope that NHRA finds what caused it.”