NHRA: After rough 2014, the “Fast” is back with Jack Beckman

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Funny Car driver Jack Beckman is back on a roll in 2015. (Photo courtesy NHRA)

In the course of two seasons, Jack Beckman went from NHRA Funny Car champ to a virtual “Whatever happened to?” query.

After roaring back to win the 2012 Funny Car championship, the Southern California native’s performance fell off-track like the elevators he used to repair before becoming a full-time drag racer.

No one could diagnose what went wrong. It wasn’t like Beckman forgot how to drive a race car. But as 2013 and especially 2014 played out, Beckman went from his nickname of “Fast Jack” to “Whatever happened to Jack?”

The harder he tried, the worst his overall performance became.

“I can’t put my finger on why we performed poorly relative to our expectations,” Beckman told MotorSportsTalk in an exclusive interview. “That frustrates me, because if you can find the smoking gun, you can eliminate the problems.

“That was probably the most frustrating thing, that I thought we had all the ingredients for a successful combination. We just didn’t find those results.”

Then, late in the 2014 season, team owner Don Schumacher pulled off one of the biggest thefts in drag racing history, luring Jimmy Prock away from his longtime home at John Force Racing and his role as crew chief for 16-time Funny Car champ John Force.

As 2015 debuted, things were once again a bit shaky on Team Beckman. He failed to qualify in the season-opening Winternationals and it was starting to look like more of the same, a carryover from last year.

Jack Beckman (photo courtesy NHRA)

“I knew we were better than that,” Beckman said. “In fact, I wasn’t as upset at that as I thought I might be. I knew we were going to turn things around – and we have, in a big way.

Indeed, Beckman has.

As the NHRA begins its vaunted three-race “Western Swing” this weekend with the Mile-High Nationals in suburban Denver, Beckman has won three of the last 12 races (along with a runner-up finish), is tied for third in the standings and is eyeing a second title by season’s end.

“I’ve never had a year since 1989 that I didn’t win at least one race in a season, until 2014, and that’s a tough pill to swallow, to not win a single race,” Beckman said. “If you ask somebody who’s done something long enough, you’re going to see highs and lows, but things eventually balance out and the pendulum swings the other way.

“We’re enjoying a great deal of success right now, and I don’t see any reason to expect that to slow down any time soon. Funny Cars are inherently unpredictable, but its gratifying to know you drive for a team and drive a car that can win every race you pull into.

“That’s the frustrating part of 2014. We had everything we needed: we had the talent, the parts and the people. We just didn’t get it done. What made the pill even more bitter is not only didn’t we win a race, we didn’t finish in the top 10 after finishing in the top-five every other year.”

Beckman, who turned 49 last month, even began to second-guess himself and his ability last season.

“I’ve always said that you never know if your last win will really be your last win,” Beckman said. “That’s not a fatalist viewpoint. I’m a cancer survivor. It’s a matter of perspective.

“Sure, you question yourself. You can have the second-fastest car and lose in the first round at one of these places. Or, you can have a mediocre car and luck your way into the final round, although that’s tough to do in Funny Car.

“So, yeah, you start to wonder, ‘Is it just not going to happen for me ever again?’ But the bigger picture is not just if I’m capable of winning other races, but will I have a job next year. There’s not a lot of job security.”

He then added with a laugh, “If you’re the team owner and a Mega Lotto winner, you’ve got job security.”

But when Prock jumped Force’s ship and came onboard with Beckman, and The Infinite Hero Foundation stepped up to sponsor Beckman’s Funny Car this season, things took off in the right direction Beckman had been hoping for.

“Had it not been for Terry Chandler (who finances both Beckman’s Infinite Hero Foundation race car, as well as the Make-A-Wish ride of teammate Tommy Johnson Jr.) putting her checkbook where her heart is, I’m sure I’d be back fixing elevators or doing something else.

“As far as I’m concerned, Terry saved my career.”

And how long will that career go? After all, one of Beckman’s top rivals, John Force, is 65 years old and still at the top of his game.

“I have an 8- and 4-year-old, and I’m a cancer survivor,” Beckman said. “I think my perspective as an older father and going through the health issues I did, whatever happens, happens.

“I have 18 wins in a nitro Funny Car and a championship. I never thought I’d be here. I want to win every day I go out there. I’d love to keep doing this for 10 more years. I know that someday it’ll end. You’d love to be in control of when it ends, but the reality is almost when the money goes away, not when the desire goes away.

“My short term goal is I want to continue with this job, because if I continue doing that, the winning the races and everything else will come with it. I think we’re going to be as tough as any other car out there.”

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Peacock to stream all Supercross and Motocross races in 2023, plus inaugural SuperMotocross Championship

Peacock Supercross Motocross 2023
Feld Entertainment, Inc.

NBC Sports and Feld Motor Sports announced that Peacock and the NBC family of networks will stream all 31 races of the combined Monster Energy Supercross, Lucas Oil Pro Motocross and the newly created SuperMotocross World Championship beginning January 7, 2023 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California and ending October 14 in the place where Supercross was born: the Los Angeles Coliseum.

The combined series will create a 10-month calendar of events, making it one of the longest professional sports’ seasons in the United States.

The agreement is for multiple years. The season finale will air live on Peacock and the USA Network.

Peacock will present live coverage of all races, qualifying and heats across both series. The 31 total races will mark a record for the combined number of Supercross and Pro Motocross events that NBC Sports will present in a single season.

NBC, USA Network and CNBC will provide coverage of all races, including the SuperMotocross World Championship Playoffs and Final, through 2023 and beyond. For more information about the Peacock streaming service, click here.

“With our wide array of live and original motorsports offerings, Peacock is a natural home for Supercross and Pro Motocross races,” said Rick Cordella, Chief Commercial Officer, Peacock. “We’re looking forward to providing fans with an easily-accessible destination to find every race all season long, including the exciting finish with the newly formed SuperMotocross World Championship.”

MORE: A conversation about media rights created the new SuperMotocross World Championship Series

The NBC family of networks has been home to Supercross for the past several seasons and this is a continuation of that relationship. The media rights for both series expired at the end of 2022, which allowed Supercross and Motocross to combine their efforts.

In fact, it was that conversation that led to the formation of the SuperMotocross World Championship (SMX).

The SMX series will begin on September 9, 2023 after the conclusion of the Pro Motocross season. Points will accumulate from both series to seed the SMX championship, which creates a record number of unified races.

“The SuperMotocross World Championship adds a new dimension to the annual Supercross and Pro Motocross seasons that will result in crowning the ultimate World Champion,” said Stephen C. Yaros, SVP Global Media and Supercross for Feld Motor Sports. “We are thrilled to be extending our relationship with NBC Sports so our fans can watch all the racing action streaming live on Peacock and the option to also watch select rounds on NBC, USA Network and CNBC.”

Complete 2023 coverage schedules for Supercross, Pro Motocross and the SuperMotocross World Championship on Peacock, NBC, USA Network and CNBC will be announced in the near future.