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Super Test Puts Fast Jack On Top

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, February 10 2018

Jack Beckman posted the fastest Funny Car pass Friday as the NHRA Winternationals got underway in Pomona.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Jack Beckman and his Funny Car crew spent their Super Bowl LII “party” testing in the Arizona desert, and the payoff after the opening qualifying session of the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season was _ we got game!

“Fast” Jack posted a 1,000-foot pass of 3.860-seconds at 332.84 mph on his second pass Friday to power into the provisional qualifying lead at the 58th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif.

We struggled at testing until the final day,” said Beckman, whose Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T team logged an extra session of NHRA Spring Training at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Ariz., near Phoenix.  “We had put the six-disc clutch in the car last year, and then we went to Phoenix for testing and we went zero-for-seven on our runs.

“We stayed there Sunday. We worked through the Super Bowl to make sure we had a good car, and I think this is the payoff of that.”

The Don Schumacher Racing team led by crew chiefs Dean Antonelli, John Medlen and Neal Strausbaugh started the day with a conservative 3.964 E.T. before tuning Beckman to a more aggressive 3.860 in Q2. “The 3.96, it was OK,” said Beckman, the 2012 world champion. “We made it down the track. The nice thing is, with that data, they gave it a little bit more of everything.

“To come out here and unload with a full-pass the first run, and have Neal and Guido and John make brilliant tuning adjustments to go to No. 1 on the second run, that’s what’s gratifying to me. The crew works just as hard if we smoke the tires or go No. 1. I’ll tell you this _ they were pretty elated with that pass.”

Two additional sessions Saturday will determine the 16-car field, with Beckman in position to continue a stretch of poles that includes the final two national events of the 2017 season.

“You have to assume track prep is going to be excellent (Saturday) like it was today,” said Beckman, who finished fourth in points last season. “The weather will dictate what we can throw at it. If there’s any sort of cloud cover, our run won’t hold but we have the advantage where we can stand on it a little harder now. If we push it too hard and smoke the tires, now we know where that limit is.” 

Two-time/reigning Funny Car world champion Robert Hight currently sits fourth after a 3.889-second run at 332.59 mph in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS during his first lap of 2018.

“First run was good. Second run, put a cylinder out right at the hit and shut it off,” said Hight, of John Force Racing. “We didn’t make a lot of full-runs in testing because we were trying things so it was nice to make a full-run to the finish line. I think we were top speed that run. Look for Q4 tomorrow to see some low 80s for these Funny Cars. (Crew chief) Jimmy Prock, he’ll be shooting for that number.”

Defending Winternationals champion Matt Hagan of DSR, another two-time world champ, sits second with numbers of 3.877 at 329.99 in his Mopar Express Lane Charger.

Clay Millican (Top Fuel) and Drew Skillman (Pro Stock) also emerged as provisional qualifying leaders in their respective categories at the first of 24 events on the 2018 schedule. Millican leads Top Fuel with a 1,000-foot run of 3.694-seconds at 327.74 mph in his Great Clips/Parts Plus dragster posted during the second qualifying session.

“I really did not expect us to run a 3.69 because we had not made a full-run in testing, but David Grubnic (crew chief) doesn’t mess around and he always gives us a good race car,” said Millican, who earned a career-best five poles while finishing sixth in points in 2017. “We were fantastic at testing last year but struggled in Pomona, so we planned on reversing those roles this season and that run today makes it seem like we may be able to do that.”

Reigning Top Fuel world champion Brittany Force of JFR began the season by affixing the championship No. 1 decal to her Monster Energy dragster surrounded by her team and fans. That proved to be Brittany’s highlight moment, as she struggled to a 5.453-second pass at 118.44 mph to currently sit in 13th. Meanwhile, defending Winternationals winner Leah Pritchett of DSR is seventh at 3.783 and 328.62 in her Mopar Dodge machine.

In Pro Stock, Skillman took P1 after covering the traditional quarter-mile in 6.569-seconds at 210.37 mph in his Ray Skillman Chevrolet Camaro SS on his opening pass of the season.

“Our first run was really strong, but we know we can still improve on the numbers we put up,” said Skillman, a two-time pole-winner who finished fifth in points in 2017. “I think everyone is a little off still, but tomorrow it’ll be cooler and everyone will run better so we’ll have to step-up again.”

Reigning Pro Stock champion Bo Butner of Ken Black Racing sits in the 11th spot after a 6.631-second run at 208.71 mph in his Jim Butner’s Auto Sales Camaro SS. Defending Winternationals winner Jason Line, a three-time world champ and Butner’s KBR teammate, is seventh following a pass of 6.603 at 208.39 in his Summit Racing Equipment Camaro SS.

“Everyone at KB Racing was happy for Bo last year, and it’s a source of pride for us that our team-owners, Ken and Judy Black, have an eighth Pro Stock championship,” Line said. “We want to get Ken and Judy another trophy and we really want to bring the championship home to Summit Racing this year. It would mean a lot to us to do that for their (speed shop’s) 50th anniversary.”

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Friday’s provisional qualifying results after the first two of four rounds of time trials for the 58th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif., the first of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations:

Top Fuel _ 1. Clay Millican, 3.694-seconds, 327.74 mph; 2. Antron Brown, 3.717, 332.51; 3. Steve Torrence, 3.726, 326.40; 4. Doug Kalitta, 3.729, 328.06; 5. Tony Schumacher, 3.732, 331.20; 6. Mike Salinas, 3.764, 326.71; 7. Leah Pritchett, 3.783, 328.62; 8. Terry McMillen, 3.794, 324.12; 9. Scott Palmer, 3.844, 313.00; 10. Richie Crampton, 3.903, 287.60; 11. Terry Haddock, 4.133, 254.76; 12. Steve Faria, 4.932, 150.26; 13. Brittany Force, 5.453, 118.44. 

Funny Car _ 1. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.860, 332.84; 2. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.877, 329.99; 3. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.882, 331.12; 4. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.889, 332.59; 5. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 3.924, 326.48; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.932, 320.36; 7. Del Worsham, Camry, 3.943, 320.97; 8. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.948, 328.94; 9. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.949, 328.06; 10. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.953, 322.04; 11. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 3.954, 322.58; 12. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.984, 322.50; 13. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.046, 310.27; 14. Jeff Diehl, Camry, 4.059, 313.58; 15. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.130, 307.16; 16. John Force, Camaro, 4.139, 265.38.

Not Qualified _ 17. Richard Townsend, 4.242, 258.91; 18. Bob Bode, 4.828, 167.91; 19. Brandon Welch, 7.210, 66.45.

Pro Stock _ 1. Drew Skillman, Chevy Camaro, 6.569, 210.47; 2. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.586, 209.65; 3. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.591, 209.56; 4. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.591, 209.39; 5. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.595, 208.65; 6. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.600, 208.71; 7. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.603, 208.39; 8. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.611, 207.53; 9. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.613, 208.59; 10. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.628, 208.07; 11. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.631, 208.71; 12. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.690, 208.14; 13. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.691, 207.91; 14. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.733, 207.02; 15. Joey Grose, Camaro, 6.753, 205.57; 16. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 11.463, 98.77.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, February 10 2018
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