Beckman goes for it all
Pomona, pre-race: Following a first-round loss in Las Vegas two weeks ago and a fall to fifth in the Countdown to 1 point standings, championship contender Jack Beckman and the Valvoline/Mail Terminal Services Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car crew have been reflecting on their up-and-down season. But don't count them out of it just yet as the 2008 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series comes to an end this weekend at the NHRA Finals at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway.
It's been a long and winding road to this point of the season for Beckman, who saw himself go from out of contention after the first 12 of 24 events right to the top of this volatile Funny Car championship chase by the 19th race. He's been in a see-saw battle with Tim Wilkerson for No. 1, and now, with this final event remaining, both drivers are trailing Cruz Pedregon for the crown. Beckman has Wilkerson, Robert Hight and Tony Pedregon between him and Cruz by a margin of 64 points. It is anybody's championship, and it will be determined this weekend.
"It's great," said Beckman, who has won three times this season in seven final rounds. "After my misstep in Vegas (a foul in the first round), all the Valvoline/MTS guys said, 'No matter what, it's been a good year.' And it really has. In July we were in 13th place wondering how the heck we were going to even score enough points to get into the top 10 to be a Countdown car and now we're going to the last race and we still have a realistic shot at the championship. We just need to perform.
"It really goes to show that everything we do we do as a team. The best car doesn't do any good if I don't do my job. And if I'm perfect but the tune-up isn't right, we’re probably not going to win either.
"So, everybody is optimistic. It's almost like we know that we're on the verge of being able to do something great, but we're kind of over the whole pressure deal.
"We have a very realistic shot. I figure we'll beat Cruz first round, Wilkerson second round, Hight in the semis and Tony in the finals and the points will take care of themselves. Piece of cake, huh?" he said with a laugh.
Qualifying well is key. Earning those valuable extra points could mean the difference between being three rounds out of the lead instead of four. "We do need to qualify well, but that's always been a goal for us," said Beckman, who has not won in Pomona in his two short years (plus five events at the end of 2006) in the class, but has a runner-up finish at this event as low qualifier in 2006. "I don't mean to say there's no pressure, but I think we perform better when we're having fun and we know that we're able to do great things with the car.
"We all know what we need to do, and we're all going to go out and have some fun and try our best to win the race."
The Mail from Home program supported by Mail Terminal Services allows fans and competitors an opportunity to sign unique cards in the Don Schumacher Racing hospitality area and at a kiosk within the U.S. Army Racing Zone at NHRA national events with messages to the U.S. troops overseas, which are then distributed free to war-zone camps by MTS. The number of postcards distributed by MTS in 2008 is expected to exceed the 90,000 mark that was reached in 2007.
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