NHRA’s Beckman back on the winning Funny Car track

Funny Car driver "Fast" Jack Beckman accelerates down the track during the quarterfinals of the 2015 NHRA Kansas Nationals on May 24, at Heartland Park in Topeka, Kan. Beckman won the Kansas Nationals over John Force with a time of 3.982 seconds.
Funny Car driver "Fast" Jack Beckman accelerates down the track during the quarterfinals of the 2015 NHRA Kansas Nationals on May 24, at Heartland Park in Topeka, Kan. Beckman won the Kansas Nationals over John Force with a time of 3.982 seconds. The Associated Press

“Fast Jack” has never been faster.

And after last weekend’s stunning performance, National Hot Rod Association drag racer Jack Beckman is a national record holder in Funny Car.

Beckman can remember bits and pieces on his second qualifying run Friday at the Sonoma Nationals in California. He was in the opposite lane of his first pass. And the sun was starting to go down.

“The reality is, I was so focused on trying to keep that (Dodge Charger) in the groove because it was pulling,” Beckman said. “When they’re accelerating that hard, a lot of times, the front end can get light and the steering doesn’t feel the same.”

But it shot off the launch pad quickly, and barreled down the 1,000-foot track in 3.921 seconds — the fastest elapsed Funny Car time in history.

“I lost a lot of sensation of the acceleration,” Beckman said. “I almost regret that I didn’t get to enjoy how fast that car was accelerating.”

With victories last week in Sonoma, and two weeks ago in Denver, Beckman is in one of the most envied positions in the NHRA heading into this weekend’s Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in Kent: attempting to sweep the grueling “western swing.”

Six others racers have done it — the last being Antron Brown in Top Fuel in 2009. And the only other Funny Car racer to do it is 15-time world champion John Force in 1994.

“Our car,” Beckman said, “is probably the intimidator right now.”

It has been an almost unexpected bounce-back season for Beckman, 49 and a native of Norco, California. In the 2012 season-ending race in Pomona, California, Beckman edged Ron Capps for his only Funny Car world points championship.

Then Beckman hit on hard times, going winless in 2013 and last season.

It was at the end of last season that former John Force Racing crew chief Jimmy Prock came on board to tune Beckman’s car.

At first, not much changed. Beckman lost in the first two rounds of the final two races of the season. Then at the season opener this year in Pomona, he did not even qualify.

“I never felt like I was in a situation where I needed to feel sorry for myself,” Beckman said. “But sometimes I felt sorry for myself. It was frustrating.”

And then it all suddenly changed.

His victory at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in North Carolina in March snapped a 55-race winless streak. And he has won four more times — in Topeka, Kansas (May), Norwalk, Ohio (July) and the last two weeks to rack up a class-high five wins.

“I kept my chin up, and (thought) this is a small hiccup and that we were going to be fine,” Beckman said. “I didn’t know that we were going to be this fine.”

Beckman credits Prock’s outside-the-box thinking on car setups, along with other tuners John Medlen and Chris Cunningham, as the reasons behind his team’s success.

“(Prock) is a mad scientist that is just absolutely in a different universe in terms of the things that he’s not afraid to try on these cars,” Beckman said. “It’s the boldness of his moves.”

Todd Milles: 253-597-8442



What: 28th annual NHRA Northwest Nationals.

When: Friday-Sunday

Where: Pacific Raceways, Kent.

Schedule: Friday — Sportsman qualifying starts at 9:15 a.m., with pro qualifying sessions at 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Saturday — Sportsman elimination rounds start at 9:15 a.m., with pro qualifying sessions at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday — First round of pro elimination rounds start at 11 a.m.

Defending event champions: Top Fuel — Doug Kalitta. Funny Car — John Force. Pro Stock — Jason Line.

2015 points leaders: Top Fuel — Tony Schumacher (1,206 points). Funny Car — Matt Hagan (1,142). Pro Stock — Greg Anderson (1,263).

Skinny: Seattle is very much “The Sarge’s” country in drag racing. Schumacher has won four times at Pacific Raceways, one short of Joe Amato’s record for Top Fuel victories. And every time he lines up here, he is the favorite. Last year, he was the top qualifier but was upended by teammate Antron Brown in the semifinals. … Larry Dixon holds the national speed record in Top Fuel (332.51 mph in June) and is due for his first win since 2011. He has made it to five finals this season.

The legend of Force continues to grow. He won his eighth Northwest Nationals title in Funny Car last season by ending Gary Densham’s improbable run. But Force will try to end Jack Beckman’s bid for a “western swing” sweep this weekend. Beckman won in Denver, and last week in Sonoma, California — and has five wins in 2015. If Beckman can pull it off, he would become the first Funny Car racer since Force in 1994 to do it.

Never count out the Summit Racing team of Line and Anderson in Pro Stock. Line won for the third time in Seattle last season by ousting Anderson in the finals. Anderson also has three victories at Pacific Raceways. No other active driver has one.

Tickets: Daily admission is $15-$46 Friday, $22-$60 Saturday and Sunday. Weekend passes are from $118-$144.