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Beckman Wins Sonoma; Swing Hopes Remain Alive

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, August 3 2015
Jack Beckman is on a Western Swing hot streak. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

Jack Beckman is on a Western Swing hot streak. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

“Fast” Jack Beckman emerged as last man standing in pursuit of sweeping the NHRA’s 2015 Western Swing Sunday, when he polished-off a near-perfect weekend with a Funny Car victory in the 28th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals.

Beckman trailered Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. in the final at Sonoma Raceway to keep alive his bid to become the eighth driver to sweep the Western Swing and only the second to do so in Funny Car.

Beckman posted his first Sonoma win, and fifth of the season, with a 1,000-foot performance of 4.037-seconds at 310.63 mph in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T. Beckman pulled away from Johnson near mid-track, as the Make-A-Wish Charger trailed at 4.073-seconds and 308.99 mph.

Beckman, who defeated Tony Pedregon, Chad Head and Robert Hight en route to the final, also earned a 20-point bonus for setting the national elapsed-time record at 3.921-seconds on Saturday.

“Everything about this win makes it extra special, but I haven’t had a bad win this year,” said Beckman, who posted his second pole of the year and 12th of his career before ending the weekend with his 20th national event victory. “If you look at the five wins they’ve been very, very different and all special. I don’t know that this will sink in until I’m on an airplane flying to Seattle.

“Since we got the trophy and qualified first and set the national record it’s icing on top of icing on top of the cake. It couldn’t have been any better.”

Beckman began the Western Swing – NHRA’s summertime tradition since 1989 – with a victory over 16-time world champion John Force last Sunday in the final of the 36th annual Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo., outside Denver.  Mile-High winners Steve Torrence (Top Fuel) and Larry Morgan (Pro Stock) saw their sweep hopes end Sunday.

The Western Swing will conclude with the 28th annual NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash., near Seattle, Aug. 7-9.

Meanwhile, Chris McGaha earned his first career NHRA Pro Stock victory by knocking off Jonathan Gray in the final. Antron Brown (Top Fuel) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event in California’s wine country. The meet was the first in NHRA history in which all four No. 1 qualifiers went on to win the race.

“I feel like I have the best crew in drag racing right now,” said Beckman, alluding to a team led by crew chief Jimmy Prock and assistants Chris Cunningham and John Medlen.  Prock, who spent 15 seasons at John Force Racing before joining DSR late last year, admittedly was stunned by how consistently well Beckman’s flopper ran all weekend.

“We race a lot, we live it and you don’t have many weekends like this,” Prock said. “We had an opportunity and we got off to an excellent start. That was an advantage right out the gate; we already had a three-second run on the board so we had an opportunity to go after it (the national record) Friday night.”

Of Beckman’s eight runs down the Sonoma track, the Infinite Hero Dodge ran in the three-second range on five complete passes.

“I think the world of Jimmy to say the least. I’m thrilled he’s come on-board,” team-owner Don Schumacher said of Prock and that stat. “I’m hoping that he’s having a great, great time. That’s really the special part about it.”

Beckman’s victory pushed DSR’s total to 260 NHRA Wally trophies. Coupled with his win at Bandimere, it marked only the second time in Beckman’s career that the 2012 world champion has won back-to-back races. Fittingly, the other occasion was during the 2007 Western Swing at Seattle and Denver.

The 20-point bonus for the national record pulled Beckman to within 57 points/three rounds of teammate and point-leader Matt Hagan, the two-time reigning world champ and driver of the Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Charger. In addition, the team earned 147 of a possible 150 points during the event ; only Hagan in 2011 previously had done that in NHRA competition. Hagan qualified second and lost in the second round to runner-up Johnson Jr.

McGaha, runner-up in his two previous Pro Stock finals, defeated V. Gaines, reigning world champion Erica Enders and five-time world champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the first three rounds. A former Comp Eliminator driver in NHRA’s Sportsman ranks, McGaha made his Pro Stock debut at the 2011 U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis and ran a limited schedule until purchasing the assets of 2009 world champion Mike Edwards and becoming a full-time Factory Hot Rod professional in 2014.

“This has been 30 years in the making, and let me tell you, it’s been something,” said McGaha, driver of the Harlow Sammons Racing Chevrolet Camaro. “All those years that my dad (Lester) ran in Comp and with me in Pro Stock. There were plenty of times when we’d leave the house and think, ‘Maybe this is the week.’ My dad came close a few times and we had a few heartbreakers along the way.  To finally get it done is really special.”

McGaha, who qualified on-pole for the sixth time in his career, went into his second-round race against Enders on the wrong end of a 10-1 record. But the Odessa, Texas, native cut a 0.029-second light to Enders’ 0.022 and powered to a quarter-mile run in 6.514-seconds at 212.13 mph that was low elapsed time and top speed of the round.

McGaha upped his game in the semifinals against Coughlin Jr., who was making his first start of the season as Enders’ temporary Elite Motorsports teammate.  McGaha’s 0.004-second reaction time triggered a 6.531-second pass at 212.29 mph that barely missed top speed of race day.

The final pitted McGaha against Gray, a familiar foe from their days in the Sportsman ranks. Gray’s 0.016-second reaction time topped McGaha’s 0.024, but Chris’ Camaro made up the difference during a run that took 6.531-seconds at 212.13 mph.

“I knew I was going to win as soon as I put it in high gear,” said McGaha, currently fourth in Pro Stock points. “That’s the same point I knew I’d won the second round and third round, too. You can just see it out the window. That’s why I’m so hoarse; I started yelling on that last one. I knew that unless something happened to the motor, it was mine. I could just see it and I’ll never forget that picture in my mind, that feeling of knowing I had it. I finally had it.

“This is like getting the monkey off my back and I hope it turns into the same thing that happened with the No. 1 qualifiers. I wanted one, then I got it, and it just got easier each time. Hopefully, the same thing happens but I’d take just one (win). If I never get another win, I’ll be more than content in this lifetime.”

Four-time world champion Greg Anderson maintained the series point lead, 47 in front of Enders. McGaha cut his deficit to the leader to 210 points.

In Top Fuel, Brown claimed his fourth win of the season and 51st of his career by outrunning first-time finalist Dave Connolly. Brown took his fourth Sonoma win by powering to a final-round 1,000-foot performance of 3.787-seconds at 320.74 mph in his Matco Tools dragster. The 2012 world champion, Brown crossed the finish line just ahead of former Pro Stock racer Connolly, whose C&J Energy Services dragster clocked 3.808-seconds and 319.14 mph.

The win was former Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Brown’s 35th in Top Fuel, tying him with legendary Top Fuel driver “Big Daddy” Don Garlits.

“That’s a true, true blessing,” said Brown, who outran Steve Chrisman, Richie Crampton and eight-time/reigning world champ Tony Schumacher en route to the final. “When I grew up in this sport, everybody knew who ‘Big Daddy’ was. What got me interested in the sport was seeing him blow-over in ’86 at Englishtown. I said, ‘Man, he’s crazy,’ but he got back in that car and did it again and ended up winning the championship that year.

“We have a unique relationship. To tie one of the greatest racers in history is unbelievable, but it hasn’t sunk in. It won’t sink in until I leave this sport, because I’m still hungry.”

Semifinalist Schumacher remained in the point lead in his U.S. Army dragster, 37 in front of DSR teammate Brown.

Krawiec, who also won the NHRA Pro Bike Battle on Saturday, earned his second consecutive Pro Stock Motorcycle win of 2015 and 29th of his career by riding past Jerry Savoie. Krawiec rode his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to his second consecutive victory and third overall at this event with a quarter-mile performance of 6.881-seconds at 191.00 mph to hold off Savoie’s Alligator Farm Suzuki, which finished in 6.891-seconds at 194.13 mph.

While the bikes do not race in Kent, Wash., and are not part of the official Western Swing, Krawiec decided to celebrate his own trifecta.

“We took a picture with a broom because this is sort of our ‘mini-swing,’^” said Krawiec, a three-time world champion aboard his V-Rod. “I was fortunate to win in Denver, and yesterday we won the (Pro Bike) Battle and today won Sonoma. That’s a good run for our Harley team. What sets this track apart is that this is one of the best surfaces we run on.”

Krawiec defeated Angie Smith, Steve Johnson and Scotty Pollacheck en route to the final. He increased his series points lead to 106 over second -place Hector Arana Jr.

“I give a lot of credit to my crew chief, Matt Hines, and everyone at Vance & Hines,” Krawiec said. “They took an outsider and turned him into a race-winner and a champion. Matt is a very unique individual. He is a thinker and the way I look at it, he has (97) wins because all of my wins, all of Drew’s (teammate Andrew Hines) wins, and all of his wins count the same because he was a part of them.”

Final finishing order (1-16) at the 28th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway. The race is the 15th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel _ 1. Antron Brown; 2. Dave Connolly; 3. Tony Schumacher; 4. J.R. Todd; 5. Clay Millican; 6. Larry Dixon; 7. Steve Torrence; 8. Richie Crampton; 9. Doug Kalitta; 10. Troy Buff; 11. Jenna Haddock; 12. Brittany Force; 13. Shawn Langdon; 14. Terry McMillen; 15. Steven Chrisman; 16. Spencer Massey.

Funny Car _1. Jack Beckman; 2. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 3. Robert Hight; 4. Cruz Pedregon; 5. Ron Capps; 6. Matt Hagan; 7. John Force; 8. Chad Head; 9. Del Worsham; 10. Courtney Force; 11. Paul Lee; 12. Tony Pedregon; 13. Tim Wilkerson; 14. John Hale; 15. Alexis DeJoria; 16. Jeff Diehl.

Pro Stock _1. Chris McGaha; 2. Jonathan Gray; 3. Jason Line; 4. Jeg Coughlin Jr.; 5. Greg Anderson; 6. Bo Butner; 7. Erica Enders; 8. Vincent Nobile; 9. Larry Morgan; 10. Shane Gray; 11. Allen Johnson; 12. Alex Laughlin; 13. V. Gaines; 14. Matt Hartford; 15. Aaron Strong; 16. Deric Kramer.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _1. Eddie Krawiec; 2. Jerry Savoie; 3. Jim Underdahl; 4. Scotty Pollacheck; 5. Andrew Hines; 6. Karen Stoffer; 7. Steve Johnson; 8. Hector Arana Jr.; 9. Hector Arana; 10. Melissa Surber; 11. Katie Sullivan; 12. Freddie Camarena; 13. Mike Berry; 14. Angie Smith; 15. Matt Smith; 16. Chip Ellis.

Sunday’s final results from the 28th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway:

Top Fuel _ Antron Brown, 3.787-seconds, 320.74 mph def. Dave Connolly, 3.808-seconds, 319.14 mph.

Funny Car _ Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.037, 310.63 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.073, 308.99.

Pro Stock _ Chris McGaha, Chevy Camaro, 6.531, 212.13 def. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.560, 211.03.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.881, 191.00 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.891, 194.13.

Super Stock  _ Justin Lamb, Chevy Cobalt, 8.724, 147.96 def. Dave Bridgewater, Chevy Camaro, 9.623, 137.12.

Stock Eliminator _ Jimmy DeFrank, Chevy Camaro, 10.655, 120.13 def. Kyle Seipel, Camaro, 11.047, 114.36.

Super Comp _ Robert Naber, Dragster, 8.920, 168.03 def. Val Torres, Dragster, 8.898, 179.95.

Super Gas _ Barry Willoughby, Chevy Camaro, 9.928, 146.85 def. Rick Cates, Chevy Corvette, foul.

Super Street _ Ryan Giacone, Ford Thunderbird, 10.900, 138.70 def. Bernie Polvadore, Pontiac Grand Prix, 10.916, 159.49.

Top Dragster _ Kyle Seipel, Dragster, 6.838, 195.31 def. Dean Hall, Dragster, 6.730, 203.58.

Top Sportsman _Ted Kellner, Pontiac Firebird, 7.495, 177.70 def. Jeff Gillette, Pontiac GTO, 6.957, 199.46.

Round-by-round results from the 28th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway:

TOP FUEL

ROUND ONE  _ Clay Millican, 3.738, 322.34 def. Doug Kalitta, 3.782, 324.20; Steve Torrence, 3.812, 322.96 def. Troy Buff, 3.911, 272.78; Dave Connolly, 3.784, 322.50 def. Terry McMillen, 4.726, 155.02; Antron Brown, 3.769, 321.27 def. Steven Chrisman, 6.090, 102.81; J.R. Todd, 4.050, 298.40 def. Jenna Haddock, 4.127, 219.19; Tony Schumacher, 3.767, 325.69 def. Brittany Force, 4.280, 201.25; Larry Dixon, 4.051, 269.83 def. Shawn Langdon, 4.445, 165.09; Richie Crampton, 3.805, 323.27 def. Spencer Massey, 6.383, 92.29;

QUARTERFINALS _Connolly, 3.792, 325.06 def. Dixon, 3.818, 322.42; Todd, 3.790, 323.66 def. Millican, 3.793, 319.98; Brown, 3.805, 318.09 def. Crampton, 4.536, 165.99; Schumacher, 3.810, 321.58 def. Torrence, 3.821, 320.43;

SEMIFINALS  _ Brown, 3.797, 319.45 def. Schumacher, 3.816, 322.34; Connolly, 3.787, 326.40 def. Todd, 3.887, 310.55;

FINAL  _Brown, 3.787, 320.74 def. Connolly, 3.808, 319.14.

FUNNY CAR

ROUND ONE  _ John Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.891, 174.12 def. John Hale, Dodge Charger, 4.983, 157.15; Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.993, 314.09 def. Tony Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.127, 295.72; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.099, 313.15 def. Paul Lee, Toyota Solara, 4.105, 307.44; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.376, 260.56 def. Jeff Diehl, Solara, 10.602, 70.95; Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.052, 314.24 def. Courtney Force, Camaro, 4.081, 317.64; Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.319, 225.56 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 6.091, 100.37; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.070, 309.63 def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.508, 190.06; Chad Head, Camry, 4.040, 315.86 def. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.065, 310.48;

QUARTERFINALS  _ Johnson Jr., 4.126, 305.98 def. Hagan, 4.139, 306.53; Beckman, 3.979, 319.67 def. Head, 7.415, 101.74; Hight, 4.095, 312.21 def. Capps, 4.113, 311.27; C. Pedregon, 4.051, 306.67 def. J. Force, 4.175, 310.63;

SEMIFINALS _ Johnson Jr., 4.109, 307.93 def. C. Pedregon, 11.675, 67.24; Beckman, 4.037, 310.91 def. Hight, 4.095, 311.27;

FINAL _ Beckman, 4.037, 310.63 def. Johnson Jr., 4.073, 308.99.

PRO STOCK

ROUND ONE  _ Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.531, 211.93 def. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.530, 212.39; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.516, 211.93 def. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.537, 211.83; Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.519, 211.49 def. Deric Kramer, Dart, broke; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.534, 211.33 def. Larry Morgan, Camaro, foul;  Jeg Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.529, 211.36 def. Matt Hartford, Pontiac GXP, 6.567, 211.10; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.518, 211.53 def. Aaron Strong, Camaro, 6.603, 208.68; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.530, 212.19 def. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.561, 211.33; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.502, 211.99 def. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.556, 211.76;

QUARTERFINALS  _ McGaha, 6.514, 212.13 def. Enders, 6.529, 211.93; Coughlin Jr., 6.537, 211.03 def. Nobile, 6.534, 211.83; Line, 6.528, 211.39 def. Butner, 6.527, 211.66; J. Gray, 6.533, 210.54 def. Anderson, 6.518, 211.86;

SEMIFINALS  _ J. Gray, 6.544, 211.10 def. Line, 6.514, 212.09; McGaha, 6.531, 212.29 def. Coughlin Jr., 6.551, 211.20;

FINAL  _ McGaha, 6.531, 212.13 def. J. Gray, 6.560, 211.03.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE

ROUND ONE  _ Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.858, 194.60 def. Katie Sullivan, Suzuki, 7.008, 189.36; Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.869, 195.76 def. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.926, 193.32; Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.921, 192.33 def. Mike Berry, Buell, 7.025, 186.54; Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 7.031, 185.59 def. Chip Ellis, Buell, broke; Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.901, 196.47 def. Freddie Camarena, Suzuki, 7.010, 193.16; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.858, 192.88 def. Melissa Surber, Buell, 6.975, 187.81; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.963, 191.92 def. Angie Smith, 7.025, 183.87; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.975, 192.36 def. Matt Smith, 7.155, 191.97;

QUARTERFINALS  _ Savoie, 6.832, 195.05 def. Stoffer, 6.911, 191.84; Krawiec, 6.859, 193.18 def. Johnson, 6.936, 192.00; Pollacheck, 7.002, 187.94 def. Arana Jr., foul; Underdahl, 6.878, 195.36 def. Hines, 6.900, 191.08;

SEMIFINALS  _ Savoie, 6.861, 195.08 def. Underdahl, 6.884, 195.39; Krawiec, 6.887, 193.27 def. Pollacheck, 7.053, 185.79;

FINAL  _ Krawiec, 6.881, 191.00 def. Savoie, 6.891, 194.13.

Point standings (top-10) following the 28th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway:

Top Fuel  _1. Tony Schumacher, 1,206; 2. Antron Brown, 1,169; 3. Larry Dixon, 960; 4. Doug Kalitta, 912; 5. Richie Crampton, 901; 6. Spencer Massey, 820; 7. Brittany Force, 794; 8. Steve Torrence, 783; 9. J.R. Todd, 782; 10. Shawn Langdon, 780.

Funny Car _1. Matt Hagan, 1,142; 2. Jack Beckman, 1,085; 3. John Force, 948; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., 947; 5. Ron Capps, 935; 6. Del Worsham, 902; 7. Cruz Pedregon, 855; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 815; 9. Robert Hight, 784; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 765.

Pro Stock _ 1. Greg Anderson, 1,263; 2. Erica Enders, 1,216; 3. Jason Line, 1,069; 4. Chris McGaha, 1,053; 5. Allen Johnson, 877; 6. Larry Morgan, 874; 7. Drew Skillman, 779; 8. Jonathan Gray, 761; 9. Shane Gray, 757; 10. Vincent Nobile, 735.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Eddie Krawiec, 702; 2. Hector Arana Jr., 596; 3. Andrew Hines, 546; 4. Karen Stoffer, 468; 5. Jim Underdahl, 459; 6. Jerry Savoie, 429; 7. Hector Arana, 417; 8. Matt Smith, 389; 9. Scotty Pollacheck, 376; 10. Angelle Sampey, 336.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, August 3 2015
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