There are a lot of unknowns entering every drag racing season, but for “Fast Jack” Beckman, his team won’t be one of them as Don Schumacher Racing was able to keep together the entire Infinite Hero Funny Car crew, from crew chiefs John Medlen, Dean Antonelli, and Neal Strasbaugh on down the line.
With the beginning of preseason testing just three weeks away, Jack is relishing the chance to start working on the car’s performance instead of breaking in new help
“It’s only the second time in my 12-year nitro career that everybody who was working on the car at the World Finals will be on the car at the Winternationals, and that’s really saying something for me,” said the 2012 season champ. “I’m excited. Maybe I’m not as hard to get along with as I thought.”
According to Beckman, the team will probably open testing at Phoenix’s Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park with their 2017 chassis, which debuted midseason in Norwalk, just to get a baseline on the track and see how new rev limiter and exhaust header rules affect their combination. A new chassis will also be on hand.
The new header rules restrict the “layback” angle to 40 degrees, up from last year’s minimum of 32. Header width has been expanded from 79 inches to 83 inches. Teams are expected to experiment with multiple combinations of angles and width to find a sweet spot. The rev limiter adjustments will begin slowly retarding the ignition 150 rpm sooner than last year’s setting.
Overall, Beckman expects a small hit to elapsed time due to the headers and a more significant decrease, up to 5 mph, in speed with the new ignition rule but, more importantly, expects a real brawl for the 10 spots in the Countdown.
Beckman finished last season in fourth place, a position improvement over 2016, despite almost identical results. He won two races again – plus of course, the Traxxas Nitro Shootout – while winning 38 rounds.
“Obviously, our four DSR cars will all be there, and you know that [John] Force didn’t enjoy seeing DSR win [two-thirds, 16 of 24] as much as we did in Funny Car, so they’ll come out swinging, too,” said Beckman. “I expect [Bob Tasca III] to be a real handful, and I expect Jim Head and Jonnie Lindberg to run the whole season, and we saw what they did last year even with missing [four] races. Tim Wilkerson always seems to find a way to get it down and Cruz Pedregon knows how to win. JR Todd was right there from midseason on and [Funny Car rookie] Shawn Langdon will be a bit of question mark early but he’s a great driver no matter where the engine sits and they’ll figure it out. Any way you look at it, there's three tough cars that won’t make the Countdown.”