Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – NORWALK, OH – Starting off a stretch of four straight race weekends on a sour note is usually not ideal, even for a veteran driver and team. But Jack Beckman has already reversed course quickly and he’ll now to look to end this rigorous stretch on a good note at the 13th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, June 20-23 at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park.
The former Funny Car world champion started the stretch with a semifinal finish in Chicago, but he took the blame for it not being more. Beckman, though, responded with a final round appearance on Sunday in Topeka and he will look to grab his first win of the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season in his 11,000-horsepower Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat in Norwalk, where he has a Funny Car-best three career wins at the fan-favorite facility.
“A win puts everyone on the right track,” Beckman said. “You can’t guarantee a win, but you have a better chance of winning if everyone is in a positive mood. It helps to have some history with the team, especially when you make a mistake like I did in Chicago. But we’ve done some good things and they know I’ll get back on track. All of us are going to make mistakes, but being close and having history together, that helps. Overall, everyone is putting in a great effort.”
Blake Alexander (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of an event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including final eliminations coverage starting at 6:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, June 23. It is the 12th of 24 races in 2019, as Beckman will look to finish the first half of the season on a strong note. With a Primetime nitro session starting at 7:45 p.m. on Friday, he’ll look to do it in style as well.
The weekend in Norwalk starts with nitro racing at night, jet cars and spectacular fireworks show, and it’s that type of entertainment Beckman has always enjoyed about the race. He will try to provide the highlights on Sunday during eliminations to earn his 29th career victory, but Beckman, who is currently sixth in a loaded Funny Car class, appreciates the show included in a weekend of racing at Norwalk, as well as the special victory trophy they provide along with the Wally.
“Each track has its own unique flavor and Norwalk is big on their pound of ice cream deal (for $1),” Beckman said. “So if you win there, not only do you leave with a Wally, but you get an engraved, pewter ice cream scooper. The Bader family knows how to keep fans happy and really pack the grandstands. As a driver, that really means something and I always enjoy going to Norwalk.”
But Beckman, who has two final round appearances in 2019, will face a number of challenges to get his fourth win in Norwalk. Points leader Robert Hight, who beat Beckman in Chicago and in the final round in Topeka, has a class-best four wins this year, while others to watch include Beckman’s Don Schumacher Racing teammates Ron Capps, defending event winner Hagan and Chicago winner Tommy Johnson Jr., defending world champ J.R. Todd and John Force, who is seeking his 150th career win. Beckman, though, feels like his team is trending in the right direction.
“It’s been an interesting year,” Beckman said. “At the beginning of the year, we had one of the best cars, but after Gainesville we had a little magic out of the car. We stayed after Richmond and tested and Chicago was the first time I felt we were back. The car is listening and things are working well, and that’s going to pay off when we continue to go to these hot tracks. That test session and getting things turned around couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Top Fuel defending world champ and points leader Steve Torrence will try to keep his hot streak of five straight wins going against the likes of Antron Brown, Doug Kalitta and Brittany Force.
Summit Racing’s Greg Anderson has three Pro Stock wins in Norwalk and he’ll look for another against teammates Bo Butner and Jason Line, as well as Erica Enders and Jeg Coughlin.
Eddie Krawiec can tie teammate and Pro Stock Motorcycle points leader Andrew Hines for the most wins in class history at the track with four going up against Matt Smith and Hector Arana Jr.
The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service makes its eighth of 12 stops in the 2019 season. Three-time world champ Rickie Smith will look for a repeat win against the likes of points leader Stevie “Fast” Jackson, defending world champ Mike Janis and Gainesville winner Todd Tutterow The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport.
NHRA fans can take part in the Mello Yello Walking Tour to see the cars and teams hard at work in the pits. Fans can also attend Nitro School to learn more about how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds. Additionally, Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park will host a Mello Yello autograph session and allow fans to meet their favorite drivers as well as the Cruising with Castello Sealmaster Track Walk hosted by NHRA announcer Joe Castello on Sunday. A can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes. NHRA fans are invited to congratulate the winners of the event as they celebrate their Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals victories.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 3:00 and 7:00 p.m. on Friday, June 21 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, June 22, at 1:00 and 4:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 23.