Jack Beckman didn’t win the ultimate prize – a second NHRA Mello Yello Funny car championship – falling eight points shy of Robert Hight’s final total, but he’ll walk off into the Pomona sunset with the final Wally of the Funny Car season after a truly weird final round.
Hight needed only to keep his Auto Club Chevy in its lane -– win or lose -– in the final round to avoid a centerline points violation. He decided to celebrate what was expected to be a carefree run by doing a half-track burnout, only to have the engine die at the end. Beckman took a careful solo down the right lane to lock up the event title. He finished second behind Hight in points, just eight markers back; in 2012, he lost the title by just two points to Ron Capps.
"I saw [Hight] go out there forever on the burnout, and I was like, wow, he really took that thing out there; OK, I just need to do my own thing here," he said. "I back up, pull forward, and the body comes up and I see his roof hatch open. [My crew] didn't say anything; I was the first person to see it and I'm holding up the single finger and then I notice he's right in the middle of the lane. I'm thinking, 'Should I just idle down the racetrack?' but I'm thinking, 'Look at all of these fans; it would be so lackluster to do that, so we legged it down there and went low e.t. of the day, so the fans got a show.
"I've never won Funny Car in Pomona -- I've won Super Comp at the Wintenationals twice -- and winning at the Finals means your offseason is going to be fantastic. My guys have given me such a great race car lately and I don't want to woulda-coulda-shoulda myself because Robert or [Matt] Hagan or [John] Force could all do the same thing. It is what it is: We finished a solid second and finished the year with a win with a phenomenal car. Things are awesome right now.
Beckman’s Infinite Hero Dodge was a rock throughout eliminations, posting a 3.946 in the first round to defeat John Hale then a 3.958 to end 2018 season champ J.R. Todd’s reign.
He then defeated upset-minded Blake Alexander, who had worked his way past Bob Tasca III and rookie Steven Densham, powering to a 3.956 to reach the final round against Hight.
Hight had opened his Sunday account by beating his boss, John Force, in the opening round, ending Force’s slim hopes for a 17th season title with a 3.94, then bested Shawn Langdon, in what is expected to be Langdon’s last Funny Car ride before returning to Top Fuel next season, with a 3.97.
In a crucial match with fellow title contender Matt Hagan, Hight took the win in convincing fashion, 3.97 to 4.07 to lock up the championship