In November 2011, I had a chance to speak with NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car driver Jack Beckman. Take a look back over the next few weeks at a few pieces from this interview, and look for other driver interviews in the future.
Jack Beckman has one of the most prestigious rides in the NHRA’s Funny Car division with Don Schumacher Racing, but he hasn’t let that go to head: “The fact that I am a hired race car driver who gets a paycheck for doing this, who drives one of the best cars in the country…it’s kinda tough to complain,” said Beckman.
Beckman worked his way through the ranks of the NHRA, owning his own Sportsman team for 21 years and hoping to one day get a chance to drive a nitro car – even if just down the track. “I went to my first race in 1973 when I was seven, and one of the huge hitters in Funny Car was Don Schumacher. People would ask me, did you ever dream you’d be doing this? and I’d answer that my dream was that someone would let me drive a nitro car for a run or two, and maybe a race or two,” remembered Beckman. “The way I did it, I networked, I drove every single car anybody would let me sit in, I went to the Frank Hawley Drag Racing School and upgraded my license so I could drive faster cars, and just did whatever I could to keep myself out there.” He then added, “To be able to get a paycheck with Don Schumacher’s autograph on it every two weeks is still kinda hard to believe.”
Beckman is ready for the final race weekend, the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, California, November 10th through 13th. In spite of sitting just one point out of first, he’s more excited than nervous. “I’m excited because Pomona’s also my home track, it’s closest to my house, it’s where, for ten-and-a-half years, I taught 7,000 students at the Frank Hawley Drag Racing School,” said Beckman, adding “I’m excited from both a fan’s perspective and from a competitor’s perspective. I’m just incredibly excited that it’s come down to this and that there are so many cars still capable of winning this thing.”
Indeed, there are many drivers still in the hunt. Behind Hagan and Beckman by just 26 points is Cruz Pedregon, followed by Mike Neff just 34 points back; 2009 Funny Car champ Robert Hight and Ron Capps, a third DSR Funny Car driver, sit just 71 and 72 points out of the lead, respectively.