Beckman Record-Breaking Fast At Infineon

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 17 2010

Jack Beckman was fastest in Funny Cars at Infineon on Friday. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series)

Jack Beckman drove to the provisional Funny Car pole in style at Infineon Raceway Friday evening, setting both ends of the track record while also beating a local noise curfew.

Beckman cranked-out a stout second -round pass of 4.063-seconds at 311.56 mph on the opening day of the 23rd annual FRAM-Autolite NHRA Nationals to grab both records from Don Schumacher Racing teammate Matt Hagan, who set them last year. “Fast Jack” is seeking his third career pole, and first of 2010.

Also emerging as provisional No. 1 qualifiers at the 15th of 23 events on the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series schedule were Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle). The race is Round 2 of the National Hot Rod Association’s annual three-race Western Swing.

With the day-long schedule running late and a 10 p.m. noise curfew looming in the wine country of Sonoma, Calif., NHRA officials were forced to cancel the second qualifying session of Top Fuel. In addition to a number of delays in the Sportsman categories, a spectacular explosion involving veteran Funny Car driver Gary Densham’s car during the final qualifying session kept the Top Fuel competitors parked during Round 2.

Beckman began his day by posting a 4.238-second 1,000-foot lap at 289.57 mph, good for No. 10 at the time.

“We were fourth pair out,” said Beckman, driver of the Valvoline/Mail Terminals Dodge Charger. “We ran OK in the day session; we just wanted to get down the track, but it kind of put us up towards the front (of the second session). We knew the track would probably get a little bit better as we went out there.

“It’s nice to have that sort of confidence. They (NHRA prep crew) didn’t do their normal scrape/drag (before the second session). You can tell they knew they were up against the clock. And all of a sudden cars are firing up, I had to get my gear on and get in there. And 250 feet into the run, when the timing and the clutch start coming in, if it’s trying to shove you out the back of the car, it’s on a good run.

“I threw the ‘chute down there and said, ‘Well, that ought to be OK,’ and they came on the radio and said 4.06. I said, ‘Cool.’ And then when you get out of the car you realize there’s still five really good pairs of cars behind us. And all 10 of them, or at least a couple of them, are probably going to go under that 4.06. And in fact it’s almost like we tipped the hand of what the car could handle with that 4.06. Now people can dive in and adjust their clutch and timing management systems.

“And then Densham is the next car out and blows the body off and I’m at the top end and watched that. I was concerned that he was OK, and he was. And then that little delay, you start wondering, does the track get better, does the track get worse?

“It’s interesting. I even told the crew guys, ‘I try never to get emotionally wrapped-up in this deal, but, man, wouldn’t it be cool if everybody else smoked the tires and we ended up No. 1?’ I was very surprised that we outlasted those 10 cars out there. I think (Saturday) is going to be extremely difficult for somebody to get in under that. I’m not saying it’s not possible. I’m saying that’s a big hill to climb.”

Cancellation of the second Top Fuel qualifying session left Dixon, who paced the field with a 3.839-second 1,000-foot pass at 317.79 mph in the opener, as the overnight leader.

“We only got that one session in, but I’m glad it was a good one for us,” said Dixon, the class points leader and driver of the Al-Anabi Dragster. “It was a great run (but) gosh, I was disappointed we didn’t get another shot at it. Bummer.”

In Pro Stock, Johnson led the field with a 6.545-second quarter-mile pass at 210.77 mph in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger that set both ends of the track record. If those numbers hold, it would be his third No. 1 of 2010 and the 10th of his career.

“The conditions to 300-feet … that was the best conditions we’ve seen in a while,” Johnson said. “The track’s awesome. The air’s awesome and I made a ‘decent’ run. Hopefully that’ll hold.”

Smith claimed the provisional pole in Pro Stock Motorcycle on his Buell with a 6.912-second pass at 191.32 mph.

“Right now, I’m happy,” Smith said. “Our Al-Anabi V-Twin is running awesome and I can’t say enough for it. The morning will be a fast session because we usually have a tailwind. If we have a tailwind and the air is this good, you’ll see some 87s or 88s.”

Qualifying will continue with the third and fourth sessions on Saturday. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 11 p.m. (EDT) Saturday. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise “NHRA Race Day,” a 30-minute preview show, at 1 p.m. (EDT) Sunday. Also Sunday, ESPN2 HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage beginning at 6 p.m. (EDT).

Results Friday after first-day qualifying for the 23rd annual FRAM-Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.:

Top Fuel _ 1. Larry Dixon, 3.839 seconds, 317.79 mph; 2. Antron Brown, 3.863, 315.86; 3. Doug Kalitta, 3.899, 309.49; 4. Brandon Bernstein, 3.914, 305.29; 5. Tony Schumacher, 3.926, 305.98; 6. Steve Torrence, 3.943, 305.08; 7. Morgan Lucas, 3.966, 294.88; 8. Rod Fuller, 3.977, 293.98; 9. Troy Buff, 3.981, 259.81; 10. Shawn Langdon, 3.987, 288.64; 11. Mike Strasburg, 4.051, 300.33; 12. Terry McMillen, 4.066, 282.01. Not Qualified: 13. Cory McClenathan, 6.338, 91.85; 14. Terry Haddock, 6.734, 100.69; 15. David Grubnic, 6.852, 89.23; 16. Bob Vandergriff, 9.059, 75.35; 17. Steve Faria, 9.393, 86.53.

Funny Car _ 1. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.063, 311.56; 2. Gary Densham, Chevy Impala, 4.103, 300.26; 3. John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.104, 307.30; 4. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Solara, 4.112, 304.19; 5. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.130, 304.39; 6. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.172, 301.87; 7. Ashley Force Hood, Mustang, 4.187, 292.77; 8. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.188, 293.09; 9. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.202, 284.93; 10. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.213, 282.13; 11. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.223, 284.51; 12. Jeff Arend, Solara, 4.253, 286.13. Not Qualified: 13. Paul Lee, 4.274, 284.15; 14. Tony Pedregon, 4.415, 257.09; 15. Brian Thiel, 4.442, 276.92; 16. Melanie Troxel, 4.496, 262.79; 17. Jeff Diehl, 8.068, 82.34; 18. Grant Downing, 8.107, 79.69.

Pro Stock _ 1. Allen Johnson, Dodge Avenger, 6.545, 210.77; 2. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Chevy Cobalt, 6.552, 210.31; 3. Ron Krisher, Cobalt, 6.565, 209.14; 4. Greg Anderson, Pontiac GXP, 6.570, 209.72; 5. Mike Edwards, GXP, 6.574, 210.28; 6. Johnny Gray, GXP, 6.575, 209.59; 7. Bob Yonke, GXP, 6.584, 208.68; 8. Kurt Johnson, Cobalt, 6.595, 208.78; 9. V. Gaines, Avenger, 6.598, 208.78; 10. Greg Stanfield, GXP, 6.599, 209.07; 11. Shane Gray, GXP, 6.613, 208.33; 12. Jason Line, GXP, 6.615, 209.98. Not Qualified: 13. Erica Enders, 6.638, 207.43; 14. Warren Johnson, 6.640, 208.88; 15. Rodger Brogdon, 6.643, 208.39; 16. Larry Morgan, 6.659, 207.15; 17. Vinnie Deceglie, 6.671, 208.20; 18. Gordie Rivera, 6.789, 203.95; 19. Jim Cunningham, 6.799, 201.79.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.912, 191.32; 2. Craig Treble, Suzuki, 6.919, 192.58; 3. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 6.926, 193.99; 4. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.928, 192.14; 5. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.934, 192.71; 6. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.936, 192.69; 7. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.965, 191.70; 8. David Hope, Buell, 6.989, 187.60; 9. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.994, 189.82; 10. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 7.010, 188.31; 11. Angie Smith, Buell, 7.030, 188.83; 12. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.045, 188.73. Not Qualified: 13. Mike Berry, 7.087, 184.07; 14. GT Tonglet, 7.097, 183.74; 15. Larry Cook, 7.101, 183.54; 16. Freddie Camarena, 7.146, 188.02; 17. Shawn Gann, 7.157, 185.79; 18. Katie Sullivan, 7.318, 180.07; 19. James Surber, 7.382, 181.35; 20. Chris MacLaurin, 7.477, 178.90; 21. Scotty Pollacheck, 10.682, 74.80; 22. Redell Harris, 26.215, 259.21.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 17 2010
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