(Photos courtesy NHRA)

2016 NHRA season in review: Funny Car driver ‘Fast Jack’ Beckman

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MotorSportsTalk continues its season-ending reviews of the top drivers of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

From Dec. 12 through Jan. 4, we’ll feature one daily in-depth review of a driver that finished in the top-five in each of the four professional classes (Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle), as well as a compendium of select other drivers that did not finish in the top-five.

The list of drivers we’ve already posted is below. Today, we feature Funny Car driver Jack Beckman:

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2016_Jack_Beckman

Driver: Jack Beckman

Age: 50

Hometown: Norco, California

Team: Don Schumacher Racing

Sponsor/car: Infinite Hero Dodge Charger

Crew chief: Jimmy Prock

2016 season finish: Fifth in Funny Car.

2016 season statistics: 24 races, 2 wins, 3 runner-up, 4 semifinals, 10 quarterfinals. No. 1 qualifier 6 times. Round-by-round record: 35 wins, 22 losses.

Career statistics: 252 races, 24 wins, 25 runner-up, 45 semifinals, 73 quarterfinals. No. 1 qualifier 21 times. Round-by-round record: 332 wins, 221 losses. 7 DNQ. Won the 2012 NHRA Funny Car championship.

What went right in 2016: Beckman was one of the more consistent drivers in Funny Car, reaching the quarterfinals or higher in 19 of the season’s 24 races. … Lived up to his colorful nickname of “Fast Jack” by exceeding 330 mph several times during the course of the season. … Was one of the most consistent qualifiers with 19 times qualifying sixth or better, including six No. 1 qualifier positions.

What went wrong in 2016: If there was any part of the schedule that Beckman would like to have back, it’s the six-race stretch from Denver through the start of the Countdown to the Championship in Charlotte. After winning at Chicago, Beckman suffered first-round exits at Denver, Indianapolis and Charlotte, and quarterfinal exits at Sonoma, Seattle and Brainerd. Ironically, he then came back to win the race after Charlotte – at St. Louis. … But then he suffered quarterfinal losses in two of the four remaining Countdown races, dropping him from a potential contender to an ultimate fifth-place finish.

What to look for in 2017: Rumors continue to fly that crew chief Jimmy Prock will return to John Force Racing, which if true means Beckman will have to find a new crew chief for 2017. … Beckman is one of the toughest competitors in Funny Car. The biggest key will be to get off to a strong start in the first six races (from the season opener at Pomona through Houston). In that same stretch in 2016, Beckman quickly fell behind and dropped to seventh in the standings before bouncing back to second after reaching the finals four times in the following seven races (1 win, 3 runner-up finishes). If he can get off to a stronger start in 2017, it could set the tone for the remainder of the season.

Season reviews already posted:

— Antron Brown (12/12)

— Ron Capps (12/13)

— Jason Line (12/14)

Jerry Savoie (12/15)

Doug Kalitta (12/16)

Tommy Johnson Jr. (12/17)

Greg Anderson (12/18)

Eddie Krawiec (12/19)

Steve Torrence (12/20)

— Matt Hagan (12/21)

— Shane Gray (12/22)

— Andrew Hines (12/23)

— J.R. Todd (12/24)

— John Force (12/25)

— Bo Butner (12/26)

— Angelle Sampey (12/27)

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Takuma Sato’s likeness revealed on Borg-Warner Trophy (PHOTOS)

Photos; Walt Kuhn
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INDIANAPOLIS – Rather than the traditional December unveil, this year’s reveal newest likeness added to the Borg-Warner Trophy came Tuesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

Takuma Sato got to see the result of the sculpting done by William Behrends and then turned from wax, clay and ceramic into sterling silver on Tuesday evening, as the winner of the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil saw his face revealed on the trophy.

Sato took the No. 26 Ruoff Home Mortgage Honda for Andretti Autosport to the win in thrilling fashion this year over Helio Castroneves, denying the Brazilian his fourth Indianapolis 500 victory in the process. It atoned for his near-miss in 2012, driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, the team he’ll return to in 2018.

It’s been a whirlwind last week-plus for Sato, doing the podium interviews at the Japanese Grand Prix, reflecting on his Indianapolis 500 triumph, then sharing the victory spoils with another Japanese pilot in Yoshihide Muroya, who won the Red Bull Air Race World Championship at Indianapolis this weekend.

Photos of Sato’s face on the most unique trophy in sports are below. This post will be updated following tonight’s full unveil. (All photos: Walt Kuhn)