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Fast Jack Beckman wins first championship chase race

by Patrick Rall on

This past weekend, the Don Schumacher Racing Dodge Charger funny cars headed to Reading, Pennsylvania for the Mopar Express Lane Nationals and when the smoke cleared, Fast Jack Beckman had pulled down his first win of the year. This win moved him into the top spot in the championship “playoff” portion of the schedule, with just five races left to the end of the 2019 season.

Coming into the Mopar Express Lane Nationals, the first of six races that will determine the 2019 NHRA Funny Car Champion, Jack Beckman hadn’t won a race this season. Each of his three teammates in the class won at least once this season, but Fast Jack was shutout during the first 18 events of 2019. Fortunately, he put together a string of strong finishes during those events, so even without a win, he headed into the Countdown to the Championship portion of the schedule in the fourth position, just 40 points behind leader Robert Hight.

At the Mopar Express Lane Nationals, Beckman finally got his first win of the season, allowing him to jump into the top spot in the championship race.

Qualifying

The Don Schumacher Racing Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat funny cars got off to a great start in qualifying for the Mopar-sponsored event, with Ron Capps grabbing the top spot in round 1 with a blazing 3.84 at 329.75 miles per hour. Tommy Johnson Jr also ran in the threes in that first round, sitting in the third spot while Jack Beckman stumbled like many drivers, sitting sixth after the first round of qualifying. Matt Hagan ran a 10.04 at 75 miles per hour on a junk run, but he would make up for that later.

In the second round of qualifying, Ron Capps went even faster, running a 3.83 at 339.28 miles per hour to secure his top spot while with a 3.90, Hagan jumped up into fifth. Johnson remained third and as other drivers turned in strong times, Beckman slid to 11th.

In the third round of qualifying, Jack Beckman pulled it together and laid down a 3.87 at 331, jumping into the second spot below Capps. During this round, Johnson would shuffle down to sixth while Hagan fell to eighth.

Finally, in the fourth round of qualifying, Bob Tacsa III moved into the second spot, narrowly beating Beckman, leading Johnson to fall to seventh and Hagan slid to ninth as they headed into eliminations.

Meanwhile, the arch rivals from John Force Racing were in fifth (Force) and sixth (Hight) after qualifying.

Eliminations

In the first round of eliminations, Ron Capps beat Mike McIntire Jr, Matt Hagan beat Shawn Langdon and Jack Beckman beat Jim Campbell while Tommy Johnson Jr lost to JR Todd. In that first round, Matt Hagan turned in the best time, Beckman was second quickest and Capps was third quickest.

In the second round, the ladder unfortunately paired up Hagan and Capps, with Capps getting the easy with when Hagan ran into issues. It should be noted that Ron Capps had the quickest time in the second round. Meanwhile, Jack Beckman turned in the second quickest run of the round to beat Robert Hight while John Force beat Tim Wilkerson and JR Todd beat John Smith.

The semifinal matches had a Dodge-Chevy and Dodge-Toyota battle. In the Dodge-Chevy battle, John Force took on Ron Capps and after Capps had been one of the fastest cars all weekend, he ran into traction problems and Force got the pass to the finals. In the other semifinal race, laid down his third-straight 3.9X run of the elimination round to roast JR Todd, setting up a thrilling rivalry battle in the finals.

In the final round, John Force and his John Force Racing Chevrolet Camaro lined up against Jack Beckman and his Don Schumacher Racing Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. Fast Jack took the early lead with a big starting line advantage (.028 to .068) and while Force turned a slightly better time (3.952 to 3.958) Beckman’s reaction time got him the big win.

Championship Standings

After the race this past weekend, there are just five events left on the 2019 NHRA Funny Car schedule and right now, Jack Beckman is in the top spot, leading John Force by 19 points. Robert Hight is third, Ron Capps is fourth, Tommy Johnson Jr is fifth and Matt Hagan is sixth. At this point, Hagan is the furthest out of the lead, trailing Beckman by 87 points, but he is still within striking distance of the championship, as are both Capps and Johnson.

Leaderboard chart courtesy of the NHRA website

Patrick Rall was raised a Mopar boy, spending years racing a Dodge Mirada while working his way through college. After spending a few years post-college in the tax accounting field, Patrick made the jump to the world of journalism and his work has been published in magazines and websites around the world.

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