NHRA U.S. Nationals: Funny Car driver Jack Beckman perfect in biggest career weekend

(Photo courtesy NHRA)

BROWNSBURG, Indiana – “Fast Jack” Beckman just keeps getting faster.

Oh, and better, too.

Beckman had the best weekend ever of his long drag racing career. Not only did Beckman win $100,000 for capturing Sunday’s Traxxas Funny Car Shootout, he doubled-up with a win from the No. 1 qualifying spot in the Monday’s final round of the 61st Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway.

In addition, Beckman begins the six-race Countdown to the Championship as the No. 1 seed in Funny Car.

“Yeah, other than that, it wasn’t a very good weekend,” Beckman laughed.

MORE — NHRA: Final results, updated standings after U.S. Nationals

Beckman earned the U.S. Nationals title when he defeated Robert Hight for only the second time in nine career final round meetings between the pair – and the first time Beckman has beaten Hight since Phoenix seven years ago.

In addition, Beckman is now 15-0 in round wins vs. all three John Force Racing Funny Car drivers (High, and John and Courtney Force) in 2015.

It’s also Beckman’s series-leading sixth win of the season (in 18 races) as he bids for his second NHRA Funny Car championship (he also won in 2012).

The key to Monday’s win for Beckman – who races for Don Schumacher Racing – was to stay consistent through all four elimination rounds, particularly his final round battle with Hight.

“You have to treat it as if (the possibility winning such a prestigious race) it doesn’t matter any more than any other round,” Beckman said, growing more serious. “

Beckman is 6-1 in final rounds this season and Monday’s triumph is the 21st of the California native’s Funny Car career.

That’s a big contrast to Beckman’s winless season in 2014.

“I had it in the back of my head, ‘Are you ever going to be able to win again,’” Beckman said. “You could have the best car on race day – and one hiccup and your day’s over, it’s done.

“Sometimes, just getting there is the battle and you have to capitalize on it in the final round. You just have to keep showing up, have a good attitude, smile when you feel like crying and get your head straight when you get in that car and the engine fires up.

“And then, wow, look what happened.”

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Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.

On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.

Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)