From NHRA Communications:
TOPEKA, Kan. — Jack Beckman already has four No. 1 qualifiers through seven events during the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. But what the 2012 Funny Car world champion really wants is his first victory of the season.
After a record-breaking season a year ago in his 10,000-horsepower Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T that included seven victories, four national E.T. records and a second place points finish, Beckman has had no problem putting up blistering numbers in qualifying, setting a national record early in the season with a pass of 3.879 seconds in Gainesville.
Finishing the job has been a different story thus far and Beckman hopes that changes at this weekend’s 28th annual NHRA Kansas Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka. Beckman enters as the defending event winner and on an upswing after a slow start, advancing to his first final round of the season last weekend in Atlanta after another No. 1 qualifier spot.
“At the end of the day really the only thing that matters is holding that trophy with your group in the winner’s circle,” said Beckman, who moved to second in points last weekend. “I’m confident we will challenge for the championship this year, but to win a championship you’re going to have to win several races. To win several races, you have to start out with one of them.”
Richie Crampton (Top Fuel) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) were also last year’s winners. The race will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live finals on Sunday. It is the eighth of 24 races and Beckman isn’t exactly in a bad spot despite the blank slate in the win column.
He trails only Courtney Force in the points standings in the highly-competitive Funny Car class and the dynamic Don Schumacher Racing team, led by standout crew chief Jimmy Prock, has started to come alive in recent races.
The capability for incredible runs has been there all season, which has led to top qualifying spots in Pomona, Gainesville, Las Vegas and Atlanta. Figuring out consistency has been another story, however, at least early in the season. But Beckman and company have rounded into form nicely in the most two recent races. He raced to his first semifinal appearance of the season two races ago and then kicked off a rigorous stretch that includes six races in seven weeks with the runner-up showing in Atlanta.
“We had a great day and a rewarding weekend,” Beckman said about Atlanta. “We made a lot of strides in our tune-up and went from fifth to second in the standings so we made up some points. It’s still frustrating to get to a final and lose.
“Now we go into Topeka before we have a week off and start four in a row. But we’ll go into that with a mean car.”
The struggle all season has been finding consistent performances on a warmer racetrack. That plagued Beckman early in the year, but those issues appear to have been largely resolved thanks to the showing the past two races.
With warmer conditions becoming the norm at this point in the season, Beckman knew they had to find answers. Changes were made after struggling during Houston qualifying, which led to the semifinal appearance, and a couple more were made heading into Atlanta. Beckman, who won seven times in 2015 and finished second overall, said he sees the light at the end of the tunnel, but he knows there is more left to attain when it comes to performance.
“We’re not there yet,” said Beckman, who has 22 career victories. “There’s still some more performance left in this car. Once we get a better handle on this new clutch-disc combination then we can lean on it a little harder.
“We’ve done some pretty cool stuff, but we what we haven’t done is figured out what the car wants on hot race tracks. Let’s face it, for the next three months we’re going to get a lot more hot tracks than home run shots.”
Of course, winning in Funny Car is never easy. Beckman lost to teammate and two-time world champion Matt Hagan in Atlanta. A host of other top challengers await in Topeka, include points leader Courtney Force, two-time season winner Tim Wilkerson, reigning world champion Del Worsham, Robert Hight, three-time Topeka winner Ron Capps, four-time Topeka winner Cruz Pedregon, Chad Head, Alexis DeJoria and John Force.
Beckman knocked off John Force to wrap up a thrilling weekend at Heartland Park Topeka a year ago, as fans witnessed what was at the time a record 15 three-second runs in the class. Beckman made five of those three-second passes during the weekend and that is the type of performance he knows his team is capable of throughout the season.
“When we do our best, I don’t think anybody can beat us,” Beckman said. “But, boy, there’s a lot of teams out there doing their best this year. We’ve stubbed our toe a lot of times, but I think the changes that we’ve made have now given us as good of a hot-weather package as anyone out there. There’s (just) so many great cars out there.”
In Top Fuel, Crampton drove his Lucas Oil dragster to his second victory of the 2015 season. Crampton is seeking his first win against the likes of two-time and defending world champion Antron Brown and Brittany Force, who has two victories in 2016. Other top contenders for the victory include Doug Kalitta, who has won two straight races to move into the points lead, Winternationals winner Steve Torrence, Clay Millican, J.R. Todd, Shawn Langdon, Terry McMillen and eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher.
In Pro Stock, Enders claimed her third victory of the 2015 season by racing past Greg Anderson one year ago. The two-time defending world champ will be looking for her second win in Topeka and first of 2016, as Greg Anderson and Jason Line have dominated the new era of Pro Stock, which includes fuel-injected engines, shorter wheelie bars, flat hoods and a 10,500 RPM rev-limiter. Point leader Line has four victories and Anderson has three this season. Others to watch in the 200 mph factory hot rod category include Bo Butner, Chris McGaha, 2014 top rookie Drew Skillman, 2012 world champ Allen Johnson, five-time world champion Jeg Coughlin, Vincent Nobile, Shane Gray and Gas Monkey Garage Chevy Camaro driver Alex Laughlin.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand how the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
The event also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:30 and 7 p.m. on Friday, May 20 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, May 21, at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 22.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
NHRA KANSAS NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 28th annual NHRA Kansas Nationals, the eighth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in three categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock – earn points leading to 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. The race also will feature competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series.
WHERE: Heartland Park Topeka, Topeka, Kansas. From Kansas City, take the Kansas Turnpike (I-70) to the Topeka Boulevard exit and travel south to the track. From Wichita, take the Kansas Turnpike (I-335) to the Topeka Boulevard exit and travel south to the track.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, May 20-22
FRIDAY, May 20 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4:30 and 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, May 21 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:30 and 4 p.m.
SUNDAY, May 22 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, May 21, FS1 will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 11 p.m (ET).
Sunday, May 22, FS1 will televise three hours of live finals coverage at 2 p.m. (ET).
2015 EVENT WINNERS: Richie Crampton, Top Fuel; Jack Beckman, Funny Car; Erica Enders, Pro Stock.
MOST VICTORIES: John Force, 9, FC; Scott Kalitta, 6, TF; Warren Johnson, 5, PS; Cruz Pedregon, 4, FC; Greg Anderson, 4, PS.
HEARTLAND PARK TOPEKA TRACK RECORDS:
Top Fuel – 3.710 seconds by Richie Crampton, May ‘15; 329.91 mph by Larry Dixon, May 2015.
Funny Car – 3.967 seconds by Chad Head, May ‘15; 325.06 mph by Courtney Force, May ’15.
Pro Stock – 6.515 seconds by Erica Enders, May ’15; 211.43 mph by Enders, May ’15.
Top Fuel – 3.680 sec. by Antron Brown, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.879 sec. by Jack Beckman, March ’16, Gainesville, Fla.; 331.45 mph by Matt Hagan, Nov. ’15, Pomona, Calif.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also available online at www.NHRA.com/tickets.
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. — Point standings (top 10) following the seventh of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series –
Top Fuel: 1. Doug Kalitta, 586; 2. Antron Brown, 522; 3. Brittany Force, 518; 4. Steve Torrence, 474; 5. J.R. Todd, 418; 6. Clay Millican, 387; 7. Tony Schumacher, 349; 8. Richie Crampton, 337; 9.Leah Pritchett, 308; 10. Terry McMillen, 293.
Funny Car: 1. Courtney Force, 522; 2. Jack Beckman, 482; 3. Tim Wilkerson, 476; 4. Ron Capps, 471; 5. Robert Hight, 458; 6. Del Worsham, 429; 7. John Force, 416; 8. Alexis DeJoria, 394; 9. Matt Hagan, 390; 10. Tommy Johnson Jr., 351.
Pro Stock: 1. Jason Line, 812; 2. Greg Anderson, 716; 3. Bo Butner, 553; 4. Drew Skillman, 432; 5. Chris McGaha, 393; 6. Allen Johnson, 392; 7. Jeg Coughlin, 308; 8. Vincent Nobile, 294; 9. Erica Enders, 289; 10. Alex Laughlin, 272.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Eddie Krawiec, 353; 2. Andrew Hines, 233; 3. Hector Arana, 207; 4. Jerry Savoie, 204; 5. Chip Ellis, 193; 6. Angelle Sampey, 179; 7. LE Tonglet, 143; 8. Matt Smith, 124; 9. Karen Stoffer, 118; 10. Scotty Pollacheck, 117.