READING, Pa. — Funny Car racer Jack Beckman has a strong historical knowledge of the NHRA and those who paved the way for the current racers.
Names of his heroes can be found often adorning his helmet as he streaks down the track at the controls of his 8,000-horsepower Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger Funny Car.
When the NHRA returns to scenic Maple Grove Raceway Oct. 3-6 for the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals, he will attempt to become a two-time winner at the fan-friendly Pennsylvania track that has been hosting events on the NHRA circuit since 1985.
Beckman raced to victory at the venerable facility in 2008 when he defeated Frank Hawley and joined a prominent list of past winners in the Funny Car category, which includes Mark Oswald, Kenny Bernstein, Gary Scelzi and Dean Skuza, among others. Beckman knows any win in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series is notable and puts him in elite company.
“Funny Cars in the ’70s were the coolest things on any racetrack,” Beckman said. “Crazy paint jobs, the cars had names, they were all for show … dry hops, long smoky burnouts. There were crazy with flames out of the (header) pipes. To get a chance to drive one that is competitive is beyond my dreams, and to get to go to the places I read about as a kid like in the Chicago area, at Englishtown and Maple Grove is beyond words. It’s like a baseball player getting a chance to play in the big leagues and going to play at the stadiums where Babe Ruth played.”
The Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals is the fourth of six playoff races in the Countdown to the Championship and winning rounds is paramount to securing a championship. Beckman, the 2012 Funny Car world champion, has raced to at least one victory in each season since 2006, a streak of six seasons, but he hasn’t yet recorded a victory in 2013. Beckman is third in points, has three runner-up finishes, including the most recent event in St. Louis, and knows winning rounds are at a premium.
“It’s nail-biting time in everyone’s mind,” Beckman said. “You have got to race perfectly from here on; it has to be error free. We were several rounds out of the lead when we started the Countdown in fifth place and the cars in front of us have been running tremendously. We have to get around them and that is a function of getting paired up against them on Sunday and then eliminating them. That’s not just a 20-point gain, but a 40-point swing.”
Maple Grove Raceway is known for incredible racing conditions and fans in attendance will watch jaw-dropping numbers go up on the scoreboards with each lap. Currently five of the eight national records were recorded at Maple Grove Raceway as conditions this time of the year are usually favorable for amazing performances in all four NHRA classes.
“The Pro Stock bikes and cars are slaves to weather,” Beckman concluded. “At Maple Grove, you can get high pressure, low temperature, low humidity and high oxygen content. That makes good power for them. For the nitro cars, the weather affects our horsepower, but more importantly we are slaves to the track. When the track temperature is down in the low 80s and the track surface is good we can give almost all the power it will handle out there. That’s what we do in the nitro categories.”