LAS VEGAS — official series release — NHRA photo —
Jack Beckman has put together a storybook season in what has turned into one of the most thrilling years in NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car history.
But for the Funny Car standout to have an ending he can celebrate, Beckman knows he will need to turn in two more memorable performances.
In a season that has been filled with broken records, incredible runs and a class-best seven victories, Beckman trails the red-hot Del Worsham by 38 points heading into the final two events of the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship.
Worsham’s third Countdown win came against Beckman in Dallas, adding another layer to what is shaping up to be an incredible finish. Beckman and his 10,000-horsepower Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T can slice into the lead at this weekend’s 15th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and Beckman knows he will need to perform at a high level to claim a second career world championship.
“It’s very possible it may take a national record to win a title,” said Beckman, who has set the world E.T. record three times in 2015. “Setting a national record is possible at Las Vegas or Pomona, or both tracks, and that might be pivotal to who could win a championship. For us, it’s not just about the big numbers, but it’s that we’ve run the big numbers so consistently that’s given us so much confidence.”
“It’s one of those situations where there are several different scenarios and all of them are unbelievably exciting. I think Funny Car has put drag racing on a whole new echelon and stage. Everyone has stepped up so much that the world has taken notice.”
Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Worsham (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will once again be televised on ESPN2. The 15th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals also marks the fifth of six playoff races in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship and is the penultimate race of the 2015 season.
Beckman’s own remarkable performances have been noteworthy and the rest of the class has responded over the last several races, creating spectacular drama and unbelievable side-by-side racing. Beckman and his team, led by famed crew chief Jimmy Prock, went to another level during the second half of the season, making the motorsports world take notice with a dominant stretch of runs that included a victory at the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.
Worsham has matched Beckman and then some during the Countdown, winning the first two events and setting the E.T. world record in St. Louis. Beckman grabbed the world record back in Maple Grove with a run of 3.897 en route to winning the event, but Worsham extended his lead in Dallas by winning a thrilling final round duel.
“Our goal is to win Las Vegas and then win Pomona,” Beckman said. “Dallas was a big one. We were on opposite sides of the ladder and that was a big matchup where we came out on the short end. But the points lead was 119 points when we left St. Louis and now we’re still well within striking distance. We’ve made some big strides since we fell so far behind in St. Louis and if we continue that trend I think we can win the championship.”
Beckman, who has 22 career wins, has performed well in pressure situations with the championship on the line in the past, winning the 2012 title over teammate Ron Capps by just two points. The situation is different in 2015, but Beckman is just thankful for the opportunity, especially after a frustrating 2014 season where he missed the Countdown entirely.
“I’m excited about the chance to win a championship,” Beckman said. “When you step back and realize we have a realistic shot to win and with the season we’ve had, that’s the stuff you dream about. It’s gut check time every single time you fire up the car but we can handle this sort of pressure. Even though this is an all new team, all of these guys have been in this situation before and that’s comforting.”
But there will be nothing easy about trying to overcome a host of standout talents in Funny Car, including Worsham, Tommy Johnson Jr., who sits in third and 147 points out of first, reigning world champion Matt Hagan, five-time Vegas winner Capps, 16-time world champion John Force, teammate Alexis DeJoria, Cruz Pedregon, Robert Hight and Tim Wilkerson.
The star-studded Countdown lineup has helped make the 2015 season so magical in Funny Car, but Beckman is not dwelling on what he has already accomplished this season. With eight rounds of racing left, he still has plans for plenty of more big moments, starting this weekend in Las Vegas.
“There’s a lot of things about this race that make it more than just another race,” said Beckman, whose first Funny Car win came in Vegas in 2006. “It’s a chance to possibly take the points lead into Pomona. We’re not going to be any less aggressive and Del is not going to be any less aggressive just because he has the points lead. What he has done winning three of four races in the Countdown has been pretty impressive.”
“We’ve won eight rounds in the Countdown and we’ve got a chance to win eight more. If we do that I think everything will work out.”
CREDIT: NHRA Communications