GAINESVILLE, FL – March 4, 2016 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – 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.
With that in mind, the record-setting Beckman 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.”
In Top Fuel, Steve Torrence will bring the confidence he gained from his win at the Winternationals in Southern California to the tradition-rich Florida race. Drivers like reigning world champion Antron Brown, four-time event winner Tony Schumacher, 2014 event winner Doug Kalitta and rising star Leah Pritchett, who won her first career race in Phoenix, will do everything in their power to knock him off the top, as will Shawn Langdon, J.R. Todd, Amalie Oil dragster driver Terry McMillen, Phoenix runner-up Brittany Force and veteran driver Clay Millican
For the new-look Pro Stock class, Anderson will ride into Gainesville looking to defend his 2015 Gatornationals title. Anderson defeated teammate Jason Line in the final round of the event last year and both already have victories in 2016. The Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro tandem has combined for seven victories at Gainesville Raceway, but expect to receive tough competition from reigning world champion Erica Enders, two-time Gators winners Allen Johnson and Jeg Coughlin Jr., along with category young guns Drew Skillman, Vincent Nobile and Bo Butner.
The sleek new Pro Stock cars feature fuel-injected engines, shorter wheelie bars, flat hoods and a 10,500 RPM rev-limiter.
The Pro Stock Motorcycle class will make its 2016 season debut at the AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals. The two-wheeled class races at 16 events throughout the season and reigning world champ Andrew Hines is after his third consecutive world championship. Trying to prevent him from getting there will be teammate and three-time event winner Eddie Krawiec, 2015 event winner Stoffer, Louisiana alligator farmer Jerry Savoie and two-time world champion Matt Smith.
As part of NHRA’s ongoing celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Funny Car class, one legendary Funny Car driver will be honored during pre-race ceremonies. There will also be Funny Cars on display in the popular Hot Rod Junction, along with a wide variety of nostalgic hot rods, dragsters and gassers. There will also be NHRA Legends autograph sessions throughout the weekend in the Hot Rod Junction area.
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 the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
The event also will serve as the season-opening race for the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Series and feature plenty of thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 12:45 and 4:15 p.m. on Friday, March 18 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, March 19, at 12 and 3:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 20.
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.
AMALIE MOTOR OIL NHRA GATORNATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 47th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, the third of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. Competition also will be featured in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series and the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Series.
WHERE: Gainesville Raceway, Gainesville, Fla. The track is located on 11211 North County Road 225 in Gainesville.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, March 17-20
THURSDAY, March 17 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
FRIDAY, March 18 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at noon and 3:30 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 12:45 and 4:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, March 19 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 2 p.m. Round 1 of eliminations at 5:15 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at noon and 3:15 p.m.
SUNDAY, March 20 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Friday, March 18, FOX Sports 1 (FS1) will televise one hour of qualifying highlights at 9 p.m. (ET).
Saturday, March 19, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying highlights at 6:30 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, March 20, FS1 will televise three hours of live finals coverage at 1 p.m. (ET).
2015 EVENT WINNERS:
Spencer Massey, Top Fuel; Ron Capps, Funny Car; Greg Anderson, Pro Stock; Karen Stoffer, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Warren Johnson, 9, PS; John Force, 7, FC; Don Prudhomme, 5, FC; Joe Amato, 4, TF; Kenny Bernstein, 4, FC/TF; Larry Dixon, 4, TF; Don Garlits, 4, TF; Jason Line, 4, PS; Ed McCulloch, 4, FC; Tony Schumacher, 4, TF; Dave Schultz, 4, PSM; Terry Vance, 4, PSM.
Top Fuel – 3.743 seconds by Morgan Lucas, March ’12; 329.02 mph by Spencer Massey, March ’15.
Funny Car – 4.022 seconds by Cruz Pedregon, March ’15; 317.12 mph by Robert Hight, March ’12.
Pro Stock – 6.473 seconds by Mike Edwards, March ’12; 214.69 mph by Erica Enders, March ’14.
PS Motorcycle – 6.750 seconds by Eddie Krawiec, March ’12; 199.26 mph by Krawiec, March ’11.
Top Fuel – 3.680 sec. by Antron Brown, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.884 sec. by Jack Beckman, Nov. ’15, Pomona, Calif. and 331.45 mph by Matt Hagan, Nov. ’15, Pomona, Calif.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C. and 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
PS Motorcycle – 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.88 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also available online at www.NHRA.com/tickets.