Jack Beckman would by lying if he said it didn’t bother him to be winless through the first 16-races of the 2018 season, but at this point, his sole focus is the upcoming Countdown to the Championship playoffs, and his pursuit of a third NHRA world title. Beckman won the Super Comp championship in 2003, and then was crowned the Mello Yello Funny Car champ in 2012.
“We can win the championship and I’m not being delusional when I say that,” said Beckman. “I know it sounds a bid odd since we haven’t won a race this year but it all comes down to what you can do at the last six races. That’s what’s most important. Of course we wish we’d have done better in the first part of the season and of course you want to win. I mean, who wouldn’t want to have a year like Robert Hight has had and win four or five races and come in here leading the points. We’d all like to be in the spot but you can’t change the past. All you can do it look forward, and when I look forward, all I’m concerned about is what we can do in the Countdown. And, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t gladly take a win here [in Brainerd] or Indy, but I’d rather have a win in Reading, the first race of the Countdown. That would be a nice way to set-up for a run at the championship.”
While Beckman hasn’t won since last year’s Brainerd race, his 2019 results haven’t been bad. He went to final rounds in Pomona, Topeka, and Norwalk, and he’s padded his score with five additional semifinals. With a 24-16 record in elimination rounds, he comes into the Brainerd event ranked No. 5 in the tough Funny Car class. Beckman is just 18-points behind DSR teammate Ron Capps, who has a pair of wins on the season.
“If I had my choice between a semifinal at every race or a win followed by two first-round losses I’d choose the latter, but that’s not the goal anyway,” said Beckman. “Of course, you want to win every race, and that’s our ultimate goal. We certainly don’t try and harder from one race to the next. Maybe, I shouldn’t even analyze it, but I do try to look at things from an honest perspective.”
In qualifying, Beckman’s Infinite Hero Dodge has been all over the map this year from a high of second in Pomona and Charlotte to a low of 14th in Phoenix and Atlanta. While qualifying isn’t necessarily a predictor of race-day success, it certainly helps to be in the top half of the field and have lane choice for round one.
“I hate to point the finger at one thing, because it’s not that simple, but one thing we’ve struggled with this year is track prep,” said Beckman. “I say that with the understanding that the track is prepped the same way for all of us and it’s the responsibility of each team to look at the conditions and make the proper adjustments but we’ve just flat missed it a few times this year. We’ve gone up there expecting one thing, and we’ve gotten something completely different. Again, I’m not assigning blame to anyone, but the reality is that’s an area where we could have done better.”
In Brainerd, Beckman was one of many Funny Car racers who knocked the tires loose at half-track during Friday’s opening qualifying session. Beckman’s crew, led by Dean Antonelli and John Medlen, made a much stronger statement in Q2 and were rewarded with a 3.902, the second-best run of the round next to teammate Matt Hagan’s 3.890. With a solid qualifying spot all but assured, Beckman figures his team can roll the dice a bit during Saturday’s two runs.
“On Q1, we went up there thinking it could handle a 3.95, and low E.T. might be a 3.94 but that wasn’t the case,” said Beckman. “Everyone seemed to miss it and John Force was quickest at 3.99. We don’t know if it had to do with the amount of rubber on the track or prep, or what it was. This is one of the smoothest tracks on the tour so it should be able to handle a lot, and we saw a little bit more of that in Q2. We made a pretty good run, and obviously so did the Mopar [Hagan] team.
“We’ll see what happens today [Saturday], but at this point I like our chances,” Beckman said. “We won this race last year and I’d love to win it again. It’s been too long as far as I’m concerned. I know I said earlier, that I’d rather win races during the Countdown, but I don’t think anyone on our team would be disappointed for us to leave here with a Wally.”