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Beckman Has Pole, Wants A Wally At Atlanta

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 15 2016
Funny Car driver Jack Beckman says poles are nice but race victories are better.

Funny Car driver Jack Beckman says poles are nice but race victories are better.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Jack Beckman and his Don Schumacher Racing Funny Car team have made qualifying look relatively ho-hum during the early portion of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. Advancing to a Sunday final-round, however, remains a major hurdle for the 2012 world champion.

Beckman and the Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T team sponsored by Terry Chandler earned their fourth pole position of the season Saturday at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga. “Fast Jack’s” third NHRA track elapsed time record led DSR’s four Funny Cars into the top-half of the 16-car field for Sunday‘s 36th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals.

A two-time Atlanta Dragway winner, Beckman used his track-record, 1,000-foot run of 3.939-seconds at 326.32 mph from Friday night to secure the 19th pole of his career and first top qualifier award at the NHRA-owned facility. Beckman will face Jim Campbell to open Sunday’s eliminations at 11 a.m. (EDT). FOX Sports 1 (FS1) will televise three hours of finals coverage Sunday at 4:30 p.m.

“I’m happy with where we are now,” said Beckman, speaking on behalf of crew chief Jimmy Prock. “Qualifying No. 1 is nice for a bit of prestige you get, and you also get some qualifying bonus points with that run. It’s also nice because you can get a more favorable matchup in the first round. But the whole part of that is to play it smart strategically and win four rounds on Sunday.”

Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Angelle Sampey (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories before a sellout crowd at the seventh of 24 national events.

Beckman, Prock and assistants John Medlen and Chris Cunningham believe they are overdue to reach a final. “In Gainesville, we definitely had a car where we could win,” Beckman said. “Other than that this year, we have stubbed our toe a lot of times. When the track got warm, if it didn’t wear the clutch just right, we didn’t make it very far. I think the changes that we’ve made have now given us as good of a hot weather package as anyone else out there.”

The Infinite Hero team started to see success with its hot weather tuneup during Saturday qualifying with elapsed times of 4.033-seconds and 3.975-seconds. But if weather forecasters are correct for Sunday, atmospheric conditions could be ideal _ a high of 76 degrees and cloudy skies.

“I’ll sleep well tonight and come in (Sunday) embracing the fact that we’re going to be the favorites,” Beckman said. “There are so many great cars out here that you have to go back to the cliché ‘race them one at a time.’ I’m looking forward to it.”

Matt Hagan, Beckman’ DSR teammate and a two-time world champion, qualified second at 3.943-seconds and 326.08 mph in his Rocky Boots/Mopar Express Lane Dodge. Hagan will meet Chad Head in the opening round.

Point-leader Courtney Force powered her Traxxas Chevy Camaro SS to the No. 3 spot with a 3.946-second pass at 326.08 mph and will race Jeff Diehl in Round 1. Force is riding the momentum from her win at the most recent event at Baytown, Texas.

Kalitta, who also won two weeks ago at Royal Purple Raceway near Houston, powered his Mac Tools dragster to a 1,000-foot pass in 3.731-seconds at 328.70 mph on Friday night to earn the pole in Top Fuel. Kalitta, who reset Atlanta Dragway’s elapsed time track record, earned his second No. 1 qualifier of the season and 45th of his career. This is his second pole at Atlanta Dragway in a car fielded by uncle and drag racing icon Connie Kalitta. Terry Haddock will face Kalitta in the opening round.

“We’re looking good,” said Kalitta, the Top Fuel point-leader. “I think it’s supposed to cool off a little more for tomorrow, but we were getting down a pretty hot racetrack today, so hopefully we’ve got it dialed-in. We’re feeling pretty good about it. We’ll be digging tomorrow.”

Richie Crampton qualified second in his Lucas Oil dragster at 3.761-seconds and 321.50 mph, also on Friday night. Crampton will face veteran independent campaigner Chris “The Greek” Karamesines in Round 1.   J.R. Todd sits third and is paired against Kyle Wurtzel. Steve Torrence, who won at the season-opening Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., qualified fourth and will meet Scott Palmer in the opening round.

In Pro Stock, Anderson rode his Friday night quarter-mile qualifying performance of 6.610-seconds at 210.14 mph in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro to the No. 1 spot. The four-time Atlanta Dragway winner has four poles this season and has raced to three victories in the first six races. This is Anderson’s seventh pole at Atlanta Dragway and the 84th of his career. Anderson will race V. Gaines in the first round of eliminations.

“We’ve had a lot of magic at this racetrack and it makes it even more special to have Summit Racing Equipment on the billboard out there,” said Anderson, a four-time world champion. “We’ve had four really good qualifying runs and I feel a little bit fortunate because it appears we have our No. 3 car, Bo Butner’s car, faster than both Jason (Line)’s and mine. Bottom line is we have three great cars over there at Ken Black Racing. We’re going to have a great chance tomorrow.”

Line, Anderson’s Summit Racing Equipment Camaro teammate, posted a pass in 6.615-seconds at 209.36 mph on Friday night to enter eliminations as the No. 2 qualifier. Line has three victories this year and has raced to the final round of every 2016 event. The two-time Atlanta Dragway winner/world champion and current point-leader will meet John Gaydosh in the opener.

 Butner qualified third and will race Alex Laughlin to open eliminations. Shane Gray is fourth and will go head-to-head with veteran Kenny Delco in a short field of 14 cars.

Sampey rode her Precision Service Equipment/Star Racing Buell to her first PSM pole since 2008 with a quarter-mile pass in 6.865-seconds at 193.32 mph, posted Friday night. Sampey, who secured the 46th pole of her career, has four victories at Atlanta Dragway. The three-time world champion will battle Steve Johnson to open eliminations.

“It’s been so long and we’ve only been back for a little less than two years, but this feels like the first No. 1 qualifier ever, not the first since 2008,” said Sampey, who returned to the NHRA tour in September 2014 after a self-imposed retirement. “I’m very excited. We were contemplating not making that (final qualifying) run. I was ready to sit out because we wanted to save the engine and run it tomorrow.

“I didn’t think we were going to do well with the headwind and when they told me it was an 0.87 I was very excited. We have a little bit more in it.”

 PSM point-leader Eddie Krawiec, a three-time world champion, powered his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson V-Rod to a pass in 6.880-seconds at 193.71 mph to qualify second. Krawiec, who won the season-opening Gatornationals in Florida and is a two-time Atlanta Dragway winner, will meet two-time world champion Matt Smith aboard his Victory in the first round.

Chip Ellis qualified third and will race rookie Cory Reed Sunday morning, while Louisiana alligator farmer Jerry Savoie is fourth and will race Michael Phillips.


First-round elimination pairings for the 36th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway, the seventh of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.  Pairings based upon results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.

Top Fuel _ 1. Doug Kalitta, 3.731-seconds, 328.70 mph vs. 16. Terry Haddock, 4.177, 284.51; 2. Richie Crampton, 3.761, 321.50  vs. 15. Chris Karamesines, 4.149, 278.75; 3. J.R. Todd, 3.762, 323.81 vs. 14. Kyle Wurtzel, 4.015, 278.92; 4. Steve Torrence, 3.771, 324.12 vs. 13. Scott Palmer, 4.008, 295.08; 5. Antron Brown, 3.775, 321.27 vs. 12. Pat Dakin, 3.878, 295.34; 6. Brittany Force, 3.777, 320.51 vs. 11. Clay Millican, 3.868, 315.42; 7. Shawn Langdon, 3.783, 319.52 vs. 10. Terry McMillen, 3.843, 319.37; 8. Tony Schumacher, 3.811, 319.82 vs. 9. Leah Pritchett, 3.822, 308.07.

Did Not Qualify _ 17. Smax Smith, 4.466, 270.97.

Funny Car _ 1. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.939, 326.32 vs. 16. Jim Campbell, Toyota Camry, broke; 2. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.943, 326.08 vs. 15. Chad Head, Camry, 5.985, 136.88; 3. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.946, 324.67 vs. 14. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 5.509, 285.95; 4. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.949, 318.69 vs. 13. Dave Richards, Ford Mustang, 4.192, 288.27; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.973, 317.94 vs. 12. John Hale, Charger, 4.093, 290.26; 6. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.980, 323.58 vs. 11. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.042, 310.27; 7. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.001, 320.66 vs. 10. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.019, 316.82; 8. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.003, 322.04 vs. 9. John Force, Camaro, 4.010, 321.96.

Pro Stock _ 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.610, 210.14 vs. 14. V. Gaines, Dodge Dart, 7.424, 140.90; 2. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.615, 209.36 vs. 13. John Gaydosh Jr., Camaro, 6.748, 204.70; 3. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.618, 209.26 vs. 12. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.734, 206.54; 4. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.620, 208.04 vs. 11. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.714, 206.10; 5. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.648, 208.39 vs. 10. Erica Enders, Dart, 6.701, 207.05; 6. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.649, 208.46 vs. 9. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.688, 207.34; 7. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.666, 207.37 vs. 8. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Dart, 6.686, 206.86.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.865, 193.32 vs. 16. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.973, 191.00; 2. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.880, 194.80 vs. 15. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.962, 191.05; 3. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.895, 194.04 vs. 14. Cory Reed, Buell, 6.952, 190.38; 4. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.895, 193.85 vs. 13. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 6.944, 194.74; 5. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.898, 192.22 vs. 12. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.936, 191.73; 6. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.907, 194.04 vs. 11. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.933, 192.69; 7. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.910, 193.63 vs. 10. Melissa Surber, Buell, 6.932, 192.17; 8. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.926, 193.18 vs. 9. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.929, 192.88.

Did Not Qualify _ 17. Angie Smith, 6.973, 189.84; 18. Michael Ray, 6.979, 192.96; 19. Mike Berry, 6.993, 190.70; 20. Joe DeSantis, 7.004, 190.00; 21. David Hope, 7.038, 189.58; 22. Brian Pretzel, 7.049, 191.57; 23. Chaz Kennedy, 7.093, 188.67; 24. Lance Bonham, 7.256, 184.65; 25. Jim Underdahl, 14.659, 161.87.


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 15 2016
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