It’s hard to believe that a full season of Funny Car racing can come down to just two points, but that’s what happened in 2012 when Jack Beckman eked out his first Funny Car championship by denying Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps his first. The two had essentially swapped teams during the season after Capps posted a surprise DNQ at the spring Las Vegas event.
Capps had won the fall race in Las Vegas – the second to last event of the year – but a couple of lucky breaks, most notably Courtney Force red-lighting against him in the semi’s when he smoked the tires, helped Beckman reach the final round and minimize the damage.
Beckman entered the season finale in Pomona as the points leader by just four markers over Capps and blew the body of his Dodge to bits Thursday after a piston malfunction on his first qualifying pass. On Friday, crew chief Todd Smith calmly tuned Beckman to a 4.025 blast and the No. 1 qualifying spot.
“The guys got it back together, we go out there Friday — at that point, we’re still carrying a four-point lead — and we’re quick of that session, which gives us three more points,” said Beckman, who held a seven-point edge entering Saturday. “Ultimately, we win the championship by two points. Had the Valvoline team not done such a brilliant job of not only getting the car back together but making it the quickest car on Friday, we lose the championship by one point. Really, our whole season, you can boil down to that one run if you want to say what was the key moment. You want to talk about a microcosm, these guys overcame adversity to do something extraordinary. They did it during the season, but they did it during that 24-hour period in Pomona.”
Capps, meanwhile, was not even qualified after two aborted passes and was clinging to No. 16 in the final session when he pulled the Rahn Tobler-tuned Dodge to the line. Just 4.007 stunning seconds later, Capps was No. 1, Beckman had been nudged to No. 3 by Cruz Pedregon’s 4.008, and Capps and Beckman were two points apart and on opposite sides of the ladder with a winner-take-all final round a very real possibility.
Each won his first two rounds — Capps over Tony Pedregon and Robert Hight and Beckman over Alexis DeJoria and Jeff Arend — and saddled up for respective semifinal clashes with Courtney Force and Cruz Pedregon that everyone hoped would lead to a dramatic final-round conclusion reminiscent of the 1990 Top Fuel battle between Joe Amato and Gary Ormsby.
Capps went first — as he had in the two previous rounds — but Force’s Mustang, hot off of 4.05 and 4.06 passes, laid down another 4.06 against Capps’ game 4.09 to clinch the title for Beckman.
Force’s win proved crucial to Beckman as he followed Capps and fell to Pedregon’s Toyota, 4.02 to 4.08, to set the final margin of championship victory at just two points.
“When you’re strapped in the car, you really can’t see the cars very much because the crewmen are all standing up on the starting line blocking your view,” said Beckman. “All the guys wearing NAPA shirts are great friends of mine and for three years were my crew guys, and when Capps was running, I could see his car between a couple of guys. It looked like it was running good, and I thought, ‘OK, they’re going to turn the win light on,’ and then I see one of them put his head down on the other shoulder. I’m like, ‘I think he just lost,’ but there was no reaction from our crew. It took probably five seconds, which felt like a half-hour, and they said, ‘We just won it.’ Then I thought, ‘Well, I can’t celebrate right now. We have to go up there and try to win.’ We didn’t, and I’m not all that upset about it, to be honest with you.
“You think about this, and you dream about this. It’s going to take me a while to wrap my head around this. We would have loved to have won it head-to-head [against Capps] in the final, but the trophy is going to shine just as well no matter what. We really wanted to win.”
1. Jack Beckman: 2,610
2. Ron Capps: 2,608
3. Mike Neff: 2,497\
|CLOSEST FINISHES IN NHRA HISTORY
Hector Arana Sr.