June 11, 2017, Englishtown, N.J. – You just knew former NHRA Funny Car champion Jack Beckman was going to put it all together soon. It happened Sunday in New Jersey at the NHRA Summernationals.
“Fast” Jack got his first win of 2017 at historic Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, becoming the sixth Mopar® HEMI®-powered Nitro driver from Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) to win an event this year. The 2012 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car champion put his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T in the winner’s circle for the first time this season and the 25th time in his Funny Car career.
“Not only did we win our first race as this team, not only did I just get another trophy, we won Englishtown,” Beckman said. “That’s a big one. This is the Summernationals and a Summernationals win in a Funny Car is about as cool as they get.”
The victory also extended a winning streak for Nitro cars featuring Mopar HEMI power to a staggering 11 in a row, stretching back to the season-ending NHRA Finals at Pomona more than six months ago. With Beckman’s win, Mopar DSR Dodge teams now claim the top three spots in the Funny Car point standings, and at least one Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car has appeared in every final round but one to date in 2017.
Beckman defeated his teammate Ron Capps’ Dodge Charger R/T with a pass of 4.100 seconds at 312.42 mph from the left lane in the final round to just better Capps’ lap of 4.143 at 299.66. Beckman’s reaction time was .081 to Capps’ .088 off the line.
Beckman, whose team underwent a number of personnel changes in the offseason, used a little bit of luck and a whole lot of HEMI power on a very hot day on the way to his first prestigious NHRA Summernationals win. He first took down fellow Dodge competitor Jim Campbell in round one as Campbell struggled to get down track. Beckman then beat Cruz Pedregon by .001 as both cars labored and lost cylinders on their way to the finish line in the second round. Beckman next caught a lucky break in the semifinals as his car went up in smoke and he was forced to coast to the line, but his opponent Courtney Force turned on the red light, giving the win and a place in the final round to Beckman, albeit without lane choice.
Also in Funny Car, Matt Hagan drove his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T past Jonnie Lindberg in round one to set up a pairing with Courtney Force in a re-match of last week’s final round at New England Dragway. Force got the best of Hagan this time, though, as he lost a cylinder and the car got loose, ending the Mopar Express Lane team’s day.
Finally, Tommy Johnson Jr. won round one in his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car by beating Bob Tasca, despite being significantly late off the line. He caught up to get a lucky win light when Tasca smoked the tires, but Johnson bowed out to Hight in round two.
In the Top Fuel category, Mopar drivers Tony Schumacher and Leah Pritchett found themselves matched up in round one. Although Schumacher had qualified sixth and Pritchett ninth, a 14-car field meant the two DSR teammates would battle early in the day. Pritchett got a slight jump in her Dodge Challenger SRT® Demon dragster, but had a cylinder out at the step, allowing Schumacher and the U.S. Army team to narrowly defeat the points leader entering the day. The first-round defeat was the first of the year for Pritchett, while Schumacher was defeated by Doug Kalitta in the second round.
The NHRA Summernationals lived up to the event name, with temperatures in the 90-degree range and an extremely hot racetrack during race day playing havoc with drivers and teams alike. The race was the second of a grueling four-race stretch throughout the month of June