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From worst to first in Vegas

by Bill Cawthon on

Jack Beckman was at the bottom of the Funny Car order after Friday’s first round of qualifying at the NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas. At the end of qualifying on Saturday, he qualified at the top of the order with a new track ET record.


In that first run, Beckman smoked the tires right out of the gate, in the #22 spot of a 22-car field. In Round Two, the Infinite Hero Dodge Charger’s engine quit about 300 feet from the start, leaving Beckman in the #22 spot again (this time, in a 23-car field).

On Saturday, the field had grown to 24 entries, the largest number this season, running in front of a sellout crowd. Beckman was finally able to get a decent pass in the third round, which bumped him up to #11, but it wasn’t until the final round that Beckman got it all together and showed the crowd why he’s called “Fast Jack.”

The Charger ran the quarter-mile in 3.871 seconds, a new track record, beating records previously set by Matt Hagan and John Force. Beckman was 0.001 seconds faster than Hagan’s 3.872 seconds, which had been good enough to keep Hagan in the top spot during all three prior rounds. Hagan goes into today’s eliminations in the #2 spot.

Beckman and Hagan will start the day in a pair of Dodge-Dodge matchups. Beckman will race against Jeff Arends in the Russo Racing Charger while Hagan pits against John Hale.

Current points leader Ron Capps qualified in the #4 position and starts his day running against Paul Lee in a Camry. Tommy Johnson Jr., currently the runner-up in the Countdown to the Championship, took the #10 spot and will take on Del Worsham’s Camry.

A total of eight Dodge Chargers were entered in this next-to-last event of the 2016 Mello Yello drag racing season. Six made the cut and two, driven by Jim Campbell and Anthony Begley, did not qualify.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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