KENT, WA – August 2, 2016 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – On the surface, everything appears to be going well for Funny Car standout Jack Beckman during his 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
The former world champion is third in points, has advanced to four final rounds and won a race less than a month ago in Chicago. But with the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship rapidly approaching, Beckman knows there is still plenty of room for improvement in his 10,000-horsepower Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T.
After winning the first two races of the famed Western Swing a year ago, Beckman has just one round win through the first two events of the grueling trio of races in 2016. That makes this weekend’s 29th annual Protect the Harvest NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by Lucas Oil at Pacific Raceways an important race for Beckman, who wants to see his car perform on the level he knows it can.
“You look at the points and it looks like we’re having a pretty solid year, but I don’t think anybody on this team is satisfied with the performance,” Beckman said. “We’ll clinch a spot in the Countdown before the end of Seattle and we’ll likely go in looking pretty good in the points standings, but we know we’ve been struggling and we know we haven’t hit the sweet spot yet in our tune-up.
“One of the problems is we’ve been playing musical chassis. The shop has been really good with everything, but it’s a lot of extra work getting everything switched over each time.”
J.R. Todd (Top Fuel), Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car) and Chris McGaha (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners at the event held at the multi-purpose motorsports facility near Seattle. It is the 16th of 24 races during the 2016 season and will be televised on the FOX national broadcast network for the first time. With just three races before the Countdown to the Championship playoffs begin, the race always comes at a critical juncture.
But along with getting set up as well as possible for a championship run, Beckman simply wants to win. Each one is treasured and Beckman isn’t looking beyond the event this weekend at Pacific Raceways. Momentum might be gained from a victory, but Beckman’s focus is performing at a high level against a star-studded Funny Car class and hopefully enjoying the spoils in the winner’s circle.
“Every one of our races awards a trophy and every race is important,” said Beckman, who has 23 career victories. “I don’t have a crystal ball but hopefully we can capitalize this weekend. This team last year on the Western Swing, we were 8-0 and right now we’re 1-2. I think we just want to walk out of (the Western Swing) with our head held high and the only way to do that is to take the trophy home with us.”
The confidence boost that comes along with a win can go a long way as well. But it’s never easy against a loaded Funny Car field that includes Don Schumacher Racing teammate and points leader Ron Capps, who has a class-best four wins this season, two-time world champ Matt Hagan, Courtney Force, reigning world champion Del Worsham, Courtney Force, Robert Hight and Tim Wilkerson.
John Force will also try to sweep the Western Swing after winning in Denver and Sonoma, putting him in a similar position to Beckman a year ago. Johnson Jr. upset Beckman in the semifinals at Seattle in 2015 and now Beckman hopes to play the role of spoiler in Force’s quest for three straight wins.
“It is real easy to be confident when your horse is the fastest horse,” Beckman said. “When you have that attitude you just go back to reacting and you don’t think about things. It feels like you’re doing things naturally. When things aren’t going your way you get into that habit of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I still have to do what works best for me and that’s be calm and confident, and go execute. We can’t leave anything on the table anymore.”
Beckman feels that has been the case far too often this season, not taking advantage of opportunities when they’ve come. He has raced to four No. 1 qualifiers this year, but hasn’t been able to win at any of those events. Beckman, who won seven races in 2015 in nine final-round appearances, knows he has a car capable of running at an impressive level and he simply wants to see it come to fruition in Seattle.
“Every race we leave without a trophy we let an opportunity slip by,” Beckman said. “I don’t think we can try any harder. Everybody is working hard. We just have to find those small details to get the car to respond like it did last year. But we don’t want to let anything else slip away. They’re giving away three more trophies before the Countdown and we still have a shot to get back into the points lead.”
In Top Fuel, Todd piloted his dragster past Shawn Langdon in the finals round a year ago and won his first race of 2016 last weekend in Sonoma. Langdon won back-to-back races earlier this year while everyone is chasing three-time 2016 winner, points leader and reigning world champion Antron Brown. Also in focused pursuit of the Top Fuel Wally trophy will Doug Kalitta, who has three wins in 2016, eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher, who won recently in Denver, two-time 2016 event winners Steve Torrence and Brittany Force, and Clay Millican.
Pro Stock, McGaha will be racing to defend his event win but he and the rest of the field will have an uphill battle. Series points leader Jason Line and teammate Greg Anderson have combined for 14 wins this season, with both winning seven. Both also have three Seattle victories. Catching up won’t be impossible in the redesigned Pro Stock class, which features fuel-injected engines, flat hoods, 10,500 RPM rev-limiters and shortened wheelie-bars. Those looking to knock down Line and Anderson include Bo Butner who sits third in points, Allen Johnson, Drew Skillman, Shane Gray, Vincent Nobile, five-time champ Jeg Coughlin Jr., Matt Hartford and two-time, reigning world champion Erica Enders.
The Protect the Harvest NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by Lucas Oil will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where the future stars of the sport earn their racing stripes.
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.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature rounds at 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 5, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Aug. 6, at 1 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 800-884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also are available online at 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.
PROTECT THE HARVEST NHRA NORTHWEST NATIONALS presented by Lucas Oil FACT SHEET
WHAT: 29th annual Protect The Harvest NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by Lucas Oil, the 16th 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 NHRA Lucas Oil Series also will be featured at this event.
WHERE: Pacific Raceways, Kent, Wash. The track is located 10 miles east of Interstate 5 on Highway 18. From I-5, use Exit 142A (Auburn exit) and travel east 10 miles on Highway 18, following the signs to the track. From other points, use Highway 18 and exit S.E. 304th St. or S.E. 312th St.
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 280 feet above sea level; Track direction is east to west.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, Aug. 5-7
FRIDAY, Aug. 5 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 2:30 and 5:30 p.m.
SATURDAY, Aug. 6 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1 and 4 p.m.
SUNDAY, Aug. 7 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Friday, Aug. 5, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 10 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, Aug. 7, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at Noon (ET).
Sunday, Aug. 7, FOX will televise three hours of live finals coverage at 4 p.m. (ET).
2015 EVENT WINNERS: J.R. Todd, Top Fuel; Tommy Johnson Jr., Funny Car; Chris McGaha, Pro Stock.
MOST VICTORIES: John Force, 8, FC; Bob Glidden, 6, PS; Joe Amato, 5, TF; Warren Johnson, 4, PS; Tony Schumacher, 4, TF.
Top Fuel – 3.727 sec. by Richie Crampton, Aug. ’15; 328.30 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15.
Funny Car – 3.912 sec. and 322.88 mph by Jack Beckman, Aug. ’15.
Pro Stock – 6.488 sec. and 213.40 mph by Chris McGaha, Aug. ’15.
Top Fuel – 3.671 sec. by Steve Torrence, July ’16, Sonoma, Calif.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.862 sec. and 335.57 mph by Matt Hagan, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.
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 may also be purchased online at http://www.NHRA.com/tickets.
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, CA — Point standings (top 10) following the 15th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series –
1. Antron Brown, 1,204; 2. Doug Kalitta, 1,167; 3. Steve Torrence, 1,072; 4. Brittany Force, 1,008; 5. Tony Schumacher, 971; 6. J.R. Todd, 897; 7. Shawn Langdon, 836; 8. Richie Crampton, 754; 9. Clay Millican, 715; 10. Leah Pritchett, 586.
1. Ron Capps, 1,214; 2. Courtney Force, 1,084; 3. Jack Beckman, 1,031; 4. Del Worsham, 960; 5. John Force, 937; 6. (tie) Matt Hagan, 936; Robert Hight, 936; 8. Tommy Johnson Jr., 888; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 827; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 765.
1. Greg Anderson, 1,587; 2. Jason Line, 1,583; 3. Bo Butner, 1,065; 4. Allen Johnson, 939; 5. Vincent Nobile, 811; 6. Drew Skillman, 805; 7. Shane Gray, 737; 8. Chris McGaha, 718; 9. Jeg Coughlin, 644; 10. Alex Laughlin, 627.
Pro Stock Motorcycle:
1. Eddie Krawiec, 824; 2. Andrew Hines, 735; 3. Angelle Sampey, 595; 4. Jerry Savoie, 556; 5. LE Tonglet, 484; 6. Hector Arana, 427; 7. Chip Ellis, 422; 8. Matt Smith, 344; 9. Hector Arana Jr, 305; 10. Steve Johnson, 300.
Source: National Hot Rod Association