NHRA: ‘Fast Jack’ Beckman may have to change nickname to ‘Unstoppable’ after Traxxas win

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BROWNSBURG, Indiana – Given how this season has gone, a nickname change may be in the cards for “Fast Jack” Beckman.

How does “Unstoppable Jack” Beckman sound? It has a pretty good ring to it.

In addition to the five national event wins he’s earned in the first 17 races, the California native picked up a cool $100,000 Sunday, capturing the Traxxas Nitro Shootout at Lucas Oil Raceway.

Beckman (4.051 seconds at 309.06 mph) defeated Robert Hight (4.138 seconds at 303.71 mph) to win his second career Traxxas Shootout, a special race-within-a-race.

He also helped Don Schumacher Racing double-up, as teammate Antron Brown won Saturday’s Traxxas Top Fuel Shootout for the first time in his career, defeating Doug Kalitta.

But there’s more.

Beckman is also the No. 1 Funny Car qualifier heading into Monday’s eliminations of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, making it four straight races that he’s gone into the final day of an event as the top qualifier.

In addition, Beckman is going for the sweep: All he needs to make it a perfect weekend is to win Monday’s race, which would be his first career triumph at Indy.

“When Jimmy (crew chief Jimmy Prock) came over, I knew we were going to do some special things this year,” Beckman said. “You do think about how great of a year it could be – and I’m not sure I could have imagined it could have been this good.

“It’s just been a little surreal.”

While it would be easy to do so, Beckman, who won the Funny Car championship in 2012, is not looking ahead to the upcoming six-race Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s playoffs.

“We’re going to leave the track with a smile tonight, but there’s not going to be time for celebrating,” he said. “We’re coming back Monday and we really want that Wally (winner’s trophy).”

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Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds