Beckman looks back on "big" victory in Englishtown
Jack Beckman’s NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series career has seen many twists and turns.
The cancer survivor, husband and father of two, a military veteran made his ultimate mark in 2012, when he earned the Funny Car championship for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR).
Throughout his career, team owner Don Schumacher has varied Beckman’s team a number of times, changing his crew chief and, on many occasions the entire crew. The 2017 season hasn’t been much different, as Beckman has three new crew chiefs - two that came to him from disparate avenues - who are just now getting accustomed to working with the 50-year-old Californian. It all came together for Beckman, John Medlen, Dean “Guido” Antonelli, Neal Strausbaugh and seven crew members during the 48th annual NHRA Summernationals last weekend.
“We had a whole team change in the offseason, we’ve had three crew members change during the season,” Beckman said of his 10-person support crew. “So, it’s been a lot of variables there. We’re not where we want to be - we’re where we like to be today, but we still have to work on this car,” he admitted.
A little history on the crew chiefs is in order, as the manner in which they’re joined at DSR is quite unusual. Medlen, whose late son Eric Medlen drove for John Force Racing (JFR) until being killed in a testing accident the day after the 2007 Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida, joined Don Schumacher Racing together with Jimmy Prock. Both team members were asked to leave in 2014 when John Force was unsure of his future racing plans. They worked together with Beckman until Prock rejoined JFR this year.
Strausbaugh has worked with the U.S. Army dragster team, crew chief Mike Green and eight-time Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher for 10 seasons until this year, when he moved over to Beckman’s Funny Car team. Antonelli left JFR after this year for DSR - the teams have their shops at opposite ends of the Brownsburg, Indiana “Nitro Alley” grouping of [mostly] nitro drag racing teams - because he wanted to run a racecar, not the entire team. Antonelli had been JFR’s general manager. This trio have become a tight-knit group in a short period of time; last weekend’s race was the 10th of a 24-race NHRA professional season.
Victory in Englishtown
Beckman, who held sixth place points coming into the event at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey, won his first race of the 2017 season, 25th of his flopper career and brought home a Wally trophy for Terry Chandler, whose largesse keeps the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T on the racetrack. To claim victory, Beckman raced past Jim Campbell in the first round, Cruz Pedregon in the quarterfinals, caught a huge break when No. 1 qualifier Courtney Force redlit and was disqualified in the semifinals as he pedaled down the track and defeated teammate and reigning Funny Car titleholder Ron Capps in a close finals race (4.100/312.42 to 4.143/299.66).
Now catapulted to third place in Funny Car points, thanks to his victory heading into this weekend’s third consecutive race at the Bristol, Tennessee dragstrip adjacent to Bristol Motor Speedway, Beckman had a few moments to reflect on the first win for this newly minted team, following his two victories in last year’s campaign. “It was an odd race weekend,” he said. “It was a very, very hot racetrack and became a crapshoot in a lot of races down there, in a pedal-fest.”
Shortly after the race Beckman said, “We dodged a huge bullet when Courtney redlit against us in the semis, but we’re the ones holding the trophy. When I go down there and stand next to that Infinite Hero Charger with our seven crew guys and three crew chiefs, they’re going to realize they were the best today. We needed to get that one so they know that we can do this. The first one is always the toughest one,” for a new team.
“It’s 25 Funny Car wins for me, plus two more in Super Comp, but it’s one for this iteration of the infinite Hero team. Not only did we win our first race as this team, not only did I just get another trophy, we won Englishtown. That’s a big one. This is the Summernationals and a Summernationals win in a Funny Car is about as cool as they get.” The victory qualified Beckman for the $100,000 Traxxas Nitro Shootout held during the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals over Labor Day weekend outside Indianapolis, the biggest race of the year.
Now “Fast” Jack Beckman will attempt to win another race in what should be more hot, humid conditions at Bristol’s Thunder Valley Nationals. Thunderstorms are predicted for the weekend and that could wreak havoc on the schedule, one that has teams traveling a week later to Norwalk, Ohio.
Beckman scores first win of the season in Englishtown
Courtney Force seeking breakthrough victory in Bristol