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Beckman Lives Up To Name In Testing

| , RacinToday.com Friday, August 25 2017

Funny Car driver “Fast Jack” Beckman was fast indeed in testing on Thursday. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

“Fast” Jack Beckman led the Funny Car field Thursday during the second and final round of testing for the 63rd annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Clermont, Ind.

Meanwhile, Tony Schumacher improved upon his elapsed time from Wednesday to lead Top Fuel and give Don Schumacher Racing a sweep of the nitro categories heading into “The Big Go.”

Beckman, the 2015 event-winner, ran a 1,000-foot time of 3.827-seconds at 337.07 mph in his first pass of the day. Beckman has two wins and two runnerup finishes this season in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T.

“I think if you go to a test session and your car goes to the finish line under power on every run, you’re not pushing the envelope enough,” said Beckman, the 2012 world champion. “The whole point of a test session isn’t to just go and make laps, it’s not practice. It’s trying things you think might work and they don’t all work.”

Along those lines, Robert Hight of archrival John Force Racing posted the second-best lap in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevy Camaro SS at 3.842-seconds and 330.88 mph. Hight has three wins at the event near Indianapolis, his last coming in 2013. Hight’s win total ties him for fourth on the all-time Funny Car event list; his next victory would move him into a tie with boss John “Brute” Force and legendary racer Don “The Snake” Prudhomme.

“We’ve made about seven runs and all of them have been in the 3.80’s,” said Hight, the 2009 world champion who was driving a new spare chassis. “We failed to go one time but we were trying some crazy stuff. I wish Indy started tomorrow. I don’t want to have to wait a week. We’re in a good place.”

Hight has won two of the last four races while setting national records in elapsed time (3.793-seconds) and speed (339.87 mph) at Brainerd (Minn.) International Raceway and Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, respectively. Hight’s team, led by tuning wizard Jimmy Prock, prepared for the Countdown to the Championship playoffs with a second chassis that previously had not been run.

“It went well,” Hight said. “First run, it went .86, and the track was pretty hot. It only failed to get down the track once and every time it went, it ran in the .80s. We tried a lot of new things, too. We just came from Brainerd, where we know we can run 3.79 in good conditions and on Sunday ran .82 when it was warmer, so we have a good setup.

“The reason to come here and test is to try new things. Some of those new things we may not put into play until next year, but some of them might show enough merit that we’ll start slipping them in here in the Countdown or in qualifying runs. But I’m pleased with the way we finished up testing.”

Hight _ who turned 48 on Sunday at Brainerd _  celebrated by winning his 400th elimination round in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. The victory came against Dale Creasy Jr. in the opening round of eliminations. 

JFR teammate Courtney Force, driver of the Advance Auto Parts Camaro SS, turned in the best of her six passes _ 3.868-seconds at 332.18 mph _ Thursday afternoon. Force drove one of the team’s backup cars in all six passes, and the team tested an assortment of parts, mostly spares they may need during the Countdown to the Championship.

JFR has not determined if it will run the primary car Courtney has been driving or the spare yet.

“We tested a spare chassis so we knew what we were working with in case we needed it for the Countdown to the Championship,” said Courtney, sixth in Funny Car points. “We made some strong passes with that car and I’m confident that this car can do the job. It felt great this week being back out here ahead of the U.S. Nationals and ‘The Big Go.’ It’s the biggest race of our season and to be able to make solid passes, and run an .86, definitely makes my team feel great going into the race.”

Team-owner John Force, a four-time U.S. Nationals champion and winner of the Gatornationals earlier this season, turned in a best pass of 3.868-seconds at 292.11 mph, his first of four passes Thursday and six passes overall. Driver of the PEAK Camaro SS, Force _ seventh in the Funny Car standings _ was pleased with the overall effort of his teams.

“All of our cars ran well,” said Force, whose teams have won the U.S. Nationals a dozen times. “We had a good test session. We changed a lot of motor stuff and the clutch, have been over the last couple races. And it’s starting to show; we’re running some good numbers. We ran an .86, and that was shutting it off at about 700-feet. Big picture _ I said we’d be ready for Indy, and we’re ready for Indy. We’re ready to go racing.”

On Wednesday, two-time world champion Matt Hagan of DSR was the class of the Funny Car field with his run of 3.861-seconds at 332.92 mph in the Pennzoil/Mopar Dodge Charger R/T. Hagan, the defending event winner, currently is third in points.

In Top Fuel, eight-time world champion Schumacher again led the field with his 1,000-foot time of 3.702-seconds at 332.34 mph in the U.S. Army dragster. DSR teammate Antron Brown, the three-time/reigning world champion, was in second at 3.722-seconds and 330.72 mph in his Matco Tools dragster. 

On Wednesday, Schumacher ran 3.707-seconds at 327.19 mph. The defending event winner, “The Sarge” has 10 wins at the U.S. Nationals and is the winningest driver in the event’s history.

Additionally, Monster Energy dragster driver Brittany Force of JFR recorded a top pass of 3.773-seconds at 301.07 mph. “We did what we needed to,” Force said. “We had six runs and we were testing different parts going in to the end of the year _ different racetracks, cooler racetracks _ and I think we figured out what we needed. Six runs was all we made and all we needed, so we’ll be ready going into Indy and the Countdown.”

NHRA teams participating in the test were preparing for the world’s biggest drag race scheduled for Aug. 30-Sept. 4. The U.S. Nationals marks the end of the NHRA regular season and is the 18th of 24 races in the 2017 season. Teams will be battling for top-10 spots heading into the six-race Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship with an increased amount of points in play via the point-and-a-half system for this event (150 points to the winner).

The Countdown playoff season will begin with the 10th annual Carolina NHRA Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C., Sept. 15-17.

Over the course of six days at the U.S. Nationals, nearly 1,000 drivers across 12 categories will compete in order to raise a Wally trophy on Labor Day Monday and collect expanded prize money.

In addition to Schumacher and Hagan, Chris McGaha (Pro Stock) and five-time world champion Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of a race that will be broadcast on the FOX national network and Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including a live broadcast of Monday’s finals on both FOX and FS1 on Sept. 4.

The first of five Mello Yello Series qualifying sessions is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 1. Two sessions will take place on Saturday, Sept. 2, at 2:30 p.m. and 6:15 p.m., and the final two qualifying sessions will be run on Sunday, Sept. 3, at 11:30 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 4.

The Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Top Fuel will be contested Saturday, Sept. 2, with rounds at 3:45 p.m., 5:45 p.m. and 7:40 p.m.

The Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Funny Car takes place on Sunday, Sept. 3, for eight qualified drivers, with rounds at 12:45 p.m., 2:45 p.m. and 4:40 p.m.

The first seven Funny Car winners of the season automatically are entered in the competition, but the eighth and final position will be decided by the process of fan vote and lottery drawing. The fan-voting process will determine the number of lottery balls that each eligible driver will be assigned during the Traxxas Shootout lottery drawings. The drawing will take place during a press conference for the U.S. Nationals on Aug. 30th in downtown Indianapolis.

Among the contenders for that eighth spot is Tim Wilkerson, driver of the Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang. Wilkerson has two previous appearances in the event since it became known as the Traxxas Nitro Shootout, and was runnerup in the nitro bonus race when it was contested under a different banner, in 2008.

“It would be great to have a chance to win the Traxxas Shootout,” said Wilkerson, who received a large fan vote in 2013 and was fortunate to win the lottery ball drawing. “It’s a real neat deal, and it comes with a big payday ($100,000) that we could really use as an independent team. If you make it to the final in the Shootout, you also get to make one more qualifying run. It doesn’t count towards qualifying but you still learn something _ and to us, that is extremely valuable. I’d sure be excited to be involved in the Shootout again this year.”

FOX and FS1 will televise coverage starting with qualifying on Sunday, Sept. 3, on FS1 at noon and 5 p.m. (EST). The broadcasts will continue on FS1 with two hours of live coverage of eliminations on Monday, Sept. 4, starting at 11 a.m. (EST), continuing live on FOX at 1 p.m. (EST).

Tickets for the world’s most prestigious drag race can be purchased by calling the NHRA Ticket Sales Center at (800) 884-NHRA (6472), or online at www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12-and-under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate. For more information visit www.NHRA.com.

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Wednesday’s testing results for the 63rd annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway:

Top Fuel _ 1. Tony Schumacher, 3.702-seconds, 332.34 mph; 2. Antron Brown, 3.722, 330.72; 3. Billy Torrence, 3.775, 292.08; 4. Shawn Langdon, 3.817, 259.41; 5. Wayne Newby, 3.840, 309.91; 6. Ashley Sanford, 3.848, 302.48; 7. Troy Coughlin Jr., 3.882, 258.07; 8. Brittany Force, 4.599, 163.12.

Funny Car _1. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.827-seconds, 337.07 mph; 2. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.842, 330.88; 3. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.863, 330.72; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.864, 311.63; 5. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.868, 332.18; 6. John Force, Camaro, 3.868, 292.14; 7. J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 3.899, 308.71; 8. Johnnie Lindberg, Camry, 3.935, 296.63; 9. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.946, 286.13; 10. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.761, 167.18.

Point standings (top-10) following the 36th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd (Minn.) International Raceway:

Top Fuel _1. Antron Brown, 1,513; 2. Steve Torrence, 1,482; 3. Leah Pritchett, 1,453; 4. Tony Schumacher, 1,121; 5. Brittany Force, 1,052; 6. Doug Kalitta, 1,038; 7. Clay Millican, 1,014; 8. Terry McMillen, 722; 9. Scott Palmer, 649; 10. Troy Coughlin Jr., 576.

Funny Car _1. Ron Capps, 1,383; 2. Robert Hight, 1,247; 3. Matt Hagan, 1,214; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., 1,180; 5. Jack Beckman, 1,160; 6. Courtney Force, 1,012; 7. John Force, 954; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 792; 9. J.R. Todd, 788; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 664.

Pro Stock _1. Bo Butner, 1,526; 2. Tanner Gray, 1,300; 3. Greg Anderson, 1,263; 4. Jason Line, 1,123; 5. Drew Skillman, 1,089; 6. Erica Enders, 1,044; 7. Jeg Coughlin Jr., 1,006; 8. Vincent Nobile, 899; 9. Allen Johnson, 657; 10. Chris McGaha, 645.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _1. LE Tonglet, 874; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 690; 3. Jerry Savoie, 655; 4. Hector Arana Jr., 632; 5. Matt Smith, 581; 6. Andrew Hines, 529; 7. Scotty Pollacheck, 528; 8. Joey Gladstone, 427; 9. Karen Stoffer, 408; 10. Angie Smith, 394.

| , RacinToday.com Friday, August 25 2017
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