GAINESVILLE, Fla. — official series release — NHRA photo —
Jack Beckman has not yet won during the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season — though there’s hardly reason for concern through only two events — and has yet to record a victory at Gainesville Raceway in his standout Funny Car career.
But with all that in mind, the current Funny Car record-setter hopes to record a pair of firsts March 17-20 during the AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals.
Beckman won a class-best seven events a year ago and he couldn’t think of a better time to pick up his next victory than at the circuit’s traditional East Coast opener at the controls of his 10,000-horsepower Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T.
“This is the East Coast version of the Winternationals and it’s always one of those races where the fans pack the grandstands,” Beckman said. “At Gainesville, they fill it up no matter what. But I’ve spent a lot of time on that dragstrip and never won. I would definitely like to get that monkey off my back this year.
“Not many races have more history than this one, and being the 50th anniversary of Funny Car this year, (NHRA) is doing a lot of special things across the country at the different events. At some point I know we’re going to get our first win and I would love for it to be at Gainesville.”
Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live finals coverage at 1 p.m. (ET). It marks the third of 24 races during the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Series season and Beckman hopes he finishes it with a championship.
Beckman, who won a Funny Car world title in 2012, finished second to Del Worsham a year ago, as Worsham’s red-hot performance in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship proved to be the difference.
But Beckman had plenty to remember in 2015, including a dominant regular season that included six victories, one of which came at the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. Beckman also won the Traxxas Nitro Shootout on that memorable Indy weekend, and also powered to national elapsed time record runs four times, including setting the current mark of 3.884 seconds at the NHRA Finals in Pomona to close out the year.
Through two events this season, Beckman has suffered a pair of second-round losses, though he did qualify No. 1 at the Winternationals to open 2016. But it’s also a far better start than 2015, when he failed to qualify in Pomona and lost in the first round in Phoenix, giving Beckman plenty of reason to believe things will turn around quickly.
“I didn’t even win a round until Gainesville last year,” said Beckman, who has 22 career wins and 44 career final round appearances. “We never knew the year would turn out like it did but I figured we would be fine. We just have to continue to stay the course. We have a brilliant crew chief (Jimmy Prock) and I know we’ll be right back in it.”
But remaining patient and staying the course in a world where 3-second passes are the norm is never easy. Beckman, though, has managed to keep an even keel demeanor, even as the team enjoyed tremendous success in 2015. He only had to look back a season prior as to the reason why, as the team suffered through a number of frustrating performances and Beckman failed to qualify for the Countdown.
“Drag racing is a very unique sport and if it doesn’t teach you patience it will wear you out,” Beckman said. “I’ve always understood that about drag racing. It can be frustrating and rewarding. Last year we won more races than any other Funny Car and still lost 17 times. That kind of underscores the sport. Usually if you win 3-4 races, it’s a good season.”
Beckman had more than a good season a year ago, which means expectations are high for 2016, especially with the spotlight on the Funny Car class and NHRA’s celebration of the ultra-popular category’s 50th anniversary. Beckman truly enjoys the historical nod and hopes to cap off a big weekend in Gainesville with a win, even as the team is working in a new car and combination.
Standing in his way is a star-studded class, starting with defending world champion Worsham. Others to watch include Capps, who won in Pomona, Tim Wilkerson, who won the most recent event in Phoenix, Alexis DeJoria, Courtney Force, seven-time event winner John Force, Robert Hight, Cruz Pedregon and Tommy Johnson Jr.
“Sometimes you make your own luck and we have to create our own,” Beckman said. “We went out and qualified No. 1 in Pomona but we’ve struggled on raceday. The new combination is not responding like we’re used to, but I’m confident we’ll get it turned around and get it zeroed in.”
CREDIT: NHRA Communications