Jack Beckman completed a dominating quintet of qualifying passes, ending up in the same spot he started as Friday’s low qualifier with his 25th career pole position and his second at Indy. Beckman’s Dean Antonelli- and John Medlen-tuned Infinite Hero Dodge Charger Hellcat blitzed the timers with passes of 3.875, 3.861, 3.878, 3.911, and 3.875.
Beckman was the low qualifier in three of the five sessions, second in one, and fourth in another to gobble up 16 precious bonus points. Beckman’s final pass of 3.875 came at a blistering top speed of 335.22 mph, the fastest speed of the 2019 season.
“Our Dodge SRT Charger Hellcat has been on a mission: Low e.t. on three of the five runs and I think I’m in a perfect position to get my second U.S. Nationals trophy,” said Beckman, who won the event in 2015, where he also was the low qualifier. “I don’t want to say we were perfect because we weren’t low of every session, but that’s as close to perfect as any Funny Car has been lately.
“Tomorrow’s conditions should be different, and I don’t know if we’ll have an advantage if the sun is out and the track is hotter but I think, psychologically, every on our team is revved up. As quick as our car has run, I think the most impressive thing was that 335-mph speed. Plus, tomorrow is not about e.t.slips; it's about win lights. You don;t have to be good, just better than the car in the other lane.”
Beckman nonetheless will have plenty of tough competition and his peers also used Sunday as a tune-up for Monday’s final eliminations.
Ron Capps, who has never won the US. Nationals, settled into a favorite’s role with a pair of consistent 3.891 passes. Robert Hight looked good on the final day of qualifying with passes of 3.884 and 3.926 in the Auto Club Camaro as did two-time defending event champ J.R. Todd, whose DHL Toyota ran 3.905 and 3.923. Four-time Indy champ John Force posted Sunday passes of 3.920 and 3.961.
Birthday boy Jonnie Lindberg improved on both of his runs Sunday, bettering his previous best of 3.989 with passes of 3.984 and 3.968 in Jim Head’s Mustang.
The completion of qualifying made official what was evident from Friday as Tim Wilkerson locked down the final spot in the 10-car Countdown to the Championship lineup. Cruz Pedregon had a very outside shot entering the event, contingent upon Wilkerson failing to qualify, but Wilk’s off-the-trailer 3.923 made that a chance more remote than the furthest star in the galaxy.
The biggest drama of the day revolved around whether a record field could be established and if it could also possibly be the sport’s first three-second field. The field was anchored at the end of Saturday’s qualifying by Phil Burkart Jr.’s 4.006 with Justin Schriefer No. 15 at 4.006. (Interestingly, Burkart is driving a car tuned by Paul Smith while Schriefer’s machine is tuned by Smith’s son, John.)
Trouble-plagued Tommy Johnson Jr., who entered the day 18th, quickly made it a record field with a 3.909 in Q4 that bumped Burkart and put Schriefer’s 4.006 on the bump, bettering the previous record bump spot of 4.029, set at the 2016 Auto Club NHRA Finals and also tied the record of 15 three-second cars set at that event. Johnson followed with another feel-good pass of 3.912 in Q5.
Jim Campbell and Terry Haddock both had shots at making it an all-three-second field in Q5, but despite respective event bests of 4.018 and 4.086, neither could crack the show. Schriefer was still vulnerable to being bumped out by Phil Burkart Jr., and, of course, both had the chance to record a three, but both were shut off on the starting line with fluid leaks in the next pair, sealing the field at a record bump but not an all-three-second field.
First-round matchups (lane choice first): Jack Beckman vs. Justin Schriefer; Matt Hagan vs. Bob Bode; John Force vs. Jonnie Lindberg; Ron Capps vs. Ray Martin; J.R. Todd vs. Cruz Pedregon; Robert Hight vs. Tim Wilkerson; Shawn Langdon vs. Tommy Johnson Jr.; Bob Tasca III vs. Paul Lee.