NHRA: ‘Fast Jack’ Beckman earns 5th Funny Car win of 2015; Brown (TF), McGaha (PS), Krawiec (PSM) also win


NHRA Funny Car driver “Fast Jack” Beckman may want to consider changing his nickname to “Faster Jack” because it doesn’t appear he’ll be slowing down anytime soon.

The Southern California native is the hottest driver in the NHRA, having won not only his second straight race on Sunday at Sonoma, Calif., but his fifth victory (in 15 races thus far) of 2015.

What’s more, he also set a new national elapsed time record in the Funny Car ranks on Saturday of 3.921 seconds.

Beckman captured the Funny Car class in the Sunday’s finals of the Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway, north of San Francisco.

Sonoma is the second leg of the annual three-race “Western Swing,” which includes last week’s race at Denver, Sunday’s finals at Sonoma and next Sunday’s race in suburban Seattle.

He’s hoping to become only the eighth driver in NHRA history – and only the second one in Funny Car – to pull off a Western Swing sweep.

Beckman (4.037 seconds at 310.63 mph) defeated Tommy Johnson Jr. (4.073 at 308.39 mph) to earn his 20th career Funny Car win and his first win ever at Sonoma.

“Winning the race and being No. 1 qualifier and setting the national record is icing on top of icing on top of the cake,” Beckman said. “It couldn’t have been any better. I don’t think this weekend will sink in until I’m on the plane going to Seattle.”

Added crew chief Jimmy Prock, who joined Beckman’s team late last season, “We race a lot, we live it and you don’t have many weekends like this.”

Beckman earned a near-perfect 147 of 150 available points during the weekend and is now just 57 points behind class leader Matt Hagan.

Of note, Sunday’s race marked the first time in NHRA history where all four No. 1 qualifiers went on to win the race.

In Top Fuel, Beckman’s Don Schumacher Racing teammate, Antron Brown, earned his fourth win of the season, his fourth at Sonoma and 51st overall triumph (35 in Top Fuel, 16 in Pro Stock Motorcycle) of his drag racing career.

Brown is now tied in the Top Fuel record book with legendary “Big Daddy” Don Garlits.

Brown (3.787 seconds at 320.74 mph) defeated Dave Connolly (3.808 at 319.14 mph) in the final round of eliminations.

“To tie one of the greatest racers in history is unbelievable, but it hasn’t sunk in,” Brown said. “It won’t sink in until I leave this sport, because I’m still hungry.”

Fellow DSR teammate Tony Schumacher leads Brown in the Top Fuel points standing by 37 points.

In Pro Stock, after finishing runner-up in the last two events, Chris McGaha (6.531 seconds at 212.13 mph) earned his first career win, defeating Jonathan Gray (6.560 at 211.03).

“This has been 30 years in the making,” McGaha said. “All those years that my dad [Lester] ran in Comp and with me in Pro Stock. There were plenty of times when we’d leave the house and think, ‘Maybe this is the week.’

“My dad came close a few times, and we had a few heartbreakers along the way. This takes the monkey off my back. I really want more, but if I only get one of these (the winner’s ‘Wally’ trophy), I can live to be content with that.”

Greg Anderson remains No. 1 in the Pro Stock standings with a 47-point lead over defending series champ Erica Enders.

And in Pro Stock Motorcycle, Eddie Krawiec, who also won the NHRA Pro Bike Battle on Saturday, earned his second straight win, third of the season and 29th of his career.

Krawiec (6.881 seconds at 191.00 mph) defeated Jerry Savoie (6.891 at 194.13) in the final round.


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TOP FUEL: 1.  Antron Brown; 2.  Dave Connolly; 3.  Tony Schumacher; 4.  J.R. Todd; 5.  Clay Millican; 6. Larry Dixon; 7.  Steve Torrence; 8.  Richie Crampton; 9.  Doug Kalitta; 10.  Troy Buff; 11.  Jenna Haddock; 12.  Brittany Force; 13.  Shawn Langdon; 14.  Terry McMillen; 15.  Steven Chrisman; 16. Spencer Massey.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Jack Beckman; 2.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 3.  Robert Hight; 4.  Cruz Pedregon; 5.  Ron Capps; 6. Matt Hagan; 7.  John Force; 8.  Chad Head; 9.  Del Worsham; 10.  Courtney Force; 11.  Paul Lee; 12. Tony Pedregon; 13.  Tim Wilkerson; 14.  John Hale; 15.  Alexis DeJoria; 16.  Jeff Diehl.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Chris McGaha; 2.  Jonathan Gray; 3.  Jason Line; 4.  Jeg Coughlin; 5.  Greg Anderson; 6.  Bo Butner; 7.  Erica Enders; 8.  Vincent Nobile; 9.  Larry Morgan; 10.  Shane Gray; 11.  Allen Johnson; 12.  Alex Laughlin; 13.  V. Gaines; 14.  Matt Hartford; 15.  Aaron Strong; 16.  Deric Kramer.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1.  Eddie Krawiec; 2.  Jerry Savoie; 3.  Jim Underdahl; 4.  Scotty Pollacheck; 5.  Andrew Hines; 6. Karen Stoffer; 7.  Steve Johnson; 8.  Hector Arana Jr; 9.  Hector Arana; 10.  Melissa Surber; 11. Katie Sullivan; 12.  Freddie Camarena; 13.  Mike Berry; 14.  Angie Smith; 15.  Matt Smith; 16. Chip Ellis.


Top Fuel: Antron Brown, 3.787 seconds, 320.74 mph  def. Dave Connolly, 3.808 seconds, 319.14 mph.

Funny Car: Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.037, 310.63  def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.073, 308.99.

Pro Stock: Chris McGaha, Chevy Camaro, 6.531, 212.13  def. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.560, 211.03.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.881, 191.00  def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.891, 194.13.


TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Clay Millican, 3.738, 322.34 def. Doug Kalitta, 3.782, 324.20; Steve Torrence, 3.812, 322.96 def. Troy Buff, 3.911, 272.78; Dave Connolly, 3.784, 322.50 def. Terry McMillen, 4.726, 155.02; Antron Brown, 3.769, 321.27 def. Steven Chrisman, 6.090, 102.81; J.R. Todd, 4.050, 298.40 def. Jenna Haddock, 4.127, 219.19; Tony Schumacher, 3.767, 325.69 def. Brittany Force, 4.280, 201.25; Larry Dixon, 4.051, 269.83 def. Shawn Langdon, 4.445, 165.09; Richie Crampton, 3.805, 323.27 def. Spencer Massey, 6.383, 92.29;

QUARTERFINALS — Connolly, 3.792, 325.06 def. Dixon, 3.818, 322.42; Todd, 3.790, 323.66 def. Millican, 3.793, 319.98; Brown, 3.805, 318.09 def. Crampton, 4.536, 165.99; Schumacher, 3.810, 321.58 def. Torrence, 3.821, 320.43;

SEMIFINALS — Brown, 3.797, 319.45 def. Schumacher, 3.816, 322.34; Connolly, 3.787, 326.40 def. Todd, 3.887, 310.55;

FINAL — Brown, 3.787, 320.74 def. Connolly, 3.808, 319.14.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — John Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.891, 174.12 def. John Hale, Dodge Charger, 4.983, 157.15; Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.993, 314.09 def. Tony Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.127, 295.72; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.099, 313.15 def. Paul Lee, Toyota Solara, 4.105, 307.44; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.376, 260.56 def. Jeff Diehl, Solara, 10.602, 70.95; Robert Hight, Chevrolet Camaro, 4.052, 314.24 def. Courtney Force, Camaro, 4.081, 317.64; Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.319, 225.56 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 6.091, 100.37; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.070, 309.63 def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.508, 190.06; Chad Head, Camry, 4.040, 315.86 def. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.065, 310.48;

QUARTERFINALS — Johnson Jr., 4.126, 305.98 def. Hagan, 4.139, 306.53; Beckman, 3.979, 319.67 def. Head, 7.415, 101.74; Hight, 4.095, 312.21 def. Capps, 4.113, 311.27; C. Pedregon, 4.051, 306.67 def. J. Force, 4.175, 310.63;

SEMIFINALS — Johnson Jr., 4.109, 307.93 def. C. Pedregon, 11.675, 67.24; Beckman, 4.037, 310.91 def. Hight, 4.095, 311.27;

FINAL — Beckman, 4.037, 310.63 def. Johnson Jr., 4.073, 308.99.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.531, 211.93 def. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.530, 212.39; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.516, 211.93 def. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.537, 211.83; Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.519, 211.49 def. Deric Kramer, Dart, broke; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.534, 211.33 def. Larry Morgan, Camaro, foul; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.529, 211.36 def. Matt Hartford, Pontiac GXP, 6.567, 211.10; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.518, 211.53 def. Aaron Strong, Camaro, 6.603, 208.68; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.530, 212.19 def. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.561, 211.33; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.502, 211.99 def. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.556, 211.76;

QUARTERFINALS — McGaha, 6.514, 212.13 def. Enders, 6.529, 211.93; Coughlin, 6.537, 211.03 def. Nobile, 6.534, 211.83; Line, 6.528, 211.39 def. Butner, 6.527, 211.66; J. Gray, 6.533, 210.54 def. Anderson, 6.518, 211.86;

SEMIFINALS — J. Gray, 6.544, 211.10 def. Line, 6.514, 212.09; McGaha, 6.531, 212.29 def. Coughlin, 6.551, 211.20;

FINAL — McGaha, 6.531, 212.13 def. J. Gray, 6.560, 211.03.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: ROUND ONE — Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.858, 194.60 def. Katie Sullivan, Suzuki, 7.008, 189.36; Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.869, 195.76 def. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.926, 193.32; Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.921, 192.33 def. Mike Berry, Buell, 7.025, 186.54; Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 7.031, 185.59 def. Chip Ellis, Buell, broke; Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.901, 196.47 def. Freddie Camarena, Suzuki, 7.010, 193.16; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.858, 192.88 def. Melissa Surber, Buell, 6.975, 187.81; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.963, 191.92 def. Angie Smith, 7.025, 183.87; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.975, 192.36 def. Matt Smith, 7.155, 191.97;

QUARTERFINALS — Savoie, 6.832, 195.05 def. Stoffer, 6.911, 191.84; Krawiec, 6.859, 193.18 def. Johnson, 6.936, 192.00; Pollacheck, 7.002, 187.94 def. Arana Jr, foul; Underdahl, 6.878, 195.36 def. Hines, 6.900, 191.08;

SEMIFINALS — Savoie, 6.861, 195.08 def. Underdahl, 6.884, 195.39; Krawiec, 6.887, 193.27 def. Pollacheck, 7.053, 185.79;

FINAL — Krawiec, 6.881, 191.00 def. Savoie, 6.891, 194.13.


Top Fuel: 1.  Tony Schumacher, 1,206; 2.  Antron Brown, 1,169; 3.  Larry Dixon, 960; 4.  Doug Kalitta, 912; 5.  Richie Crampton, 901; 6.  Spencer Massey, 820; 7.  Brittany Force, 794; 8.  Steve Torrence, 783; 9.  J.R. Todd, 782; 10.  Shawn Langdon, 780.

Funny Car: 1.  Matt Hagan, 1,142; 2.  Jack Beckman, 1,085; 3.  John Force, 948; 4.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 947; 5. Ron Capps, 935; 6.  Del Worsham, 902; 7.  Cruz Pedregon, 855; 8.  Tim Wilkerson, 815; 9.  Robert Hight, 784; 10.  Alexis DeJoria, 765.

Pro Stock: 1.  Greg Anderson, 1,263; 2.  Erica Enders, 1,216; 3.  Jason Line, 1,069; 4.  Chris McGaha, 1,053; 5.  Allen Johnson, 877; 6.  Larry Morgan, 874; 7.  Drew Skillman, 779; 8.  Jonathan Gray, 761; 9. Shane Gray, 757; 10.  Vincent Nobile, 735.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1.  Eddie Krawiec, 702; 2.  Hector Arana Jr, 596; 3.  Andrew Hines, 546; 4.  Karen Stoffer, 468; 5. Jim Underdahl, 459; 6.  Jerry Savoie, 429; 7.  Hector Arana, 417; 8.  Matt Smith, 389; 9.  Scotty Pollacheck, 376; 10.  Angelle Sampey, 336.

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NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”


James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E Team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship team from Mercedes-EQ. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”