POMONA, Calif. – Jack Beckman stole the show again Friday in the second round of qualifying for the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway and said, “all things being equal, I preferred that run to yesterday.”
The run Friday, a 4.025-second elapsed time at 319.75 mph, put the Funny Car points leader in the No. 1 spot in the field for the sixth and final round of the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship and added three points to his lead over second-place Ron Capps, who has not qualified.
Beckman has a seven-point advantage over his Don Schumacher Racing teammate with two rounds of qualifying in all classes scheduled for 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday to set the fields for Sunday’s 11 a.m. elimination rounds.
It was a stunning reversal for Beckman, whose Valvoline/NextGen Dodge Charger blew an engine and lost all the fiberglass bodywork in a fiery explosion during his first qualifying attempt on Thursday, and he gave all of the credit to his crew.
“Those guys were able to take a car that was in really bad shape last night and bring back a great race car,” he said. “Now we can play around tomorrow and go for the throat on Sunday.
“I think that our objective in qualifying here was not to lose ground in points (to Capps and third-place Mike Neff, who trails by 89 points), so we needed to do well. But the war is going to be on Sunday. We want to turn on the win light and that will guarantee us the championship.”
Morgan Lucas in Top Fuel, Greg Anderson in Pro Stock and Andrew Hines in Pro Stock Motorcycle are the other class leaders.
Lucas at least temporarily took the spotlight from the Top Fuel title contenders by running a 3.761 at 324.98 in his GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster in the first round of qualifying for the class, which lost its opening session to rain on Thursday.
Points leader Antron Brown, who’s trying to become the first African-American driver to win a major U.S. auto racing championship, was sixth in the Matco Tools dragster and is 65 points ahead of seven-time champion Tony Schumacher, who sits ninth in his U.S. Army dragster.
“We’re looking at it as getting ready for next year,” said Lucas. “We’re having a problem with the car not wearing as much clutch as it normally would (and losing time in the middle of the run). It’s been kind of inconsistent in that regard. We know there is some left out there.”
Four-time Pro Stock champion Anderson, who has struggled with a new Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro for the past few months, moved to the top of the bracket with a 6.527 at 211.76. Anderson has been the No. 1 qualifier 75 times, but is looking for his first No. 1 of this season.
First round leader Allen Johnson is No. 2 and will clinch his first world championship by qualifying for Sunday’s eliminations.
“This is like Christmas for me. It’s been awhile,” Anderson said. “We’ve been working very hard on these new Camaros. We got a little bit lost when we brought them out back in July. We got a little confused with the chassis. We’re finally turning the corner and we’ll have great hot rods for next year.
“Hopefully this gets me back in the groove. There’s not a lot of room left (to improve), but there were a couple of places that were not quite perfect, so if we can brush them up we’ve got a shot (to stay No. 1).”
Hines strengthened his hold on the top spot in the Pro Stock Motorcycle field by pushing his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to a performance of 6.838 at 196.10. He posted a 6.872 in Thursday’s first round.
“I didn’t think the round was going to be as quick as it was (because of marginal conditions for the motorcycles) so it was surprising to see some of the numbers that were coming up,” said Hines, who won this event last year. “We got pretty much all of it on that run. I don’t know how much more we can improve on that. It was pretty good all the way down the track.”
No. 2 qualifier Eddie Krawiec, Hines’ teammate, will win his second straight and third overall series title by qualifying for Sunday’s eliminations.