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NHRA: ‘Fast Jack’ Beckman ready to unleash thunder and lightning at Bristol

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To paraphrase a line from one of Garth Brooks’ biggest hits, the thunder will roll this weekend and NHRA Funny Car driver Jack Beckman hopes lightning will strike for him.

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series moves into Thunder Valley, otherwise known as Bristol Dragway in eastern Tennessee – across from its more well-known big brother, Bristol Motor Speedway – for this weekend’s NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.

And while each of the 11,000 horsepower motors in Funny Car and Top Fuel will make it seem like it’s thunder rolling down the track, Beckman wants to strike like lightning and earn not only his first win of 2019 but also his first win ever at Thunder Valley.

Funny Car driver Jack Beckman. Photo: NHRA.

It’s been an interesting year,” Beckman said in a NHRA media release. “At the beginning of the year, we had one of the best cars, but after Gainesville we had a little magic out of the car.

We stayed after Richmond and tested and Chicago was the first time I felt we were back. The car is listening and things are working well, and that’s going to pay off when we continue to go to these hot tracks. That test session and getting things turned around couldn’t have come at a better time.”

Indeed, Beckman’s performance in his Don Schumacher Racing Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat has increased sharply in the last two races. He reached the semifinals at Chicago (lost to Robert Hight) and again lost to Hight in the finals of this past Sunday’s race at Topeka, Kansas. It was Beckman’s second final round appearance of the season.

To come so close, it’s very clear he’s knocking on victory’s door. This weekend could be the day he finally kicks that door down and motors on into the winner’s circle.

A win puts everyone on the right track,” said Beckman, who is a two-time runner-up finisher at Bristol. “You can’t guarantee a win, but you have a better chance of winning if everyone is in a positive mood.

It helps to have some history with the team, especially when you make a mistake like I did in Chicago. But we’ve done some good things and they know I’ll get back on track. All of us are going to make mistakes, but being close and having history together, that helps. Overall, everyone is putting in a great effort.”

Beckman has one of the most colorful nicknames in the sport: “Fast Jack.” It’s served him well and is quite appropriate, as he won the Funny Car championship in 2012. He also previously shared the record with teammate Matt Hagan for fastest speed in Funny Car (335.57 mph), a mark that Hight broke this past weekend at Topeka at 337.66 mph.

While he’d love to have the speed mark back, a win is more important. And with the following race at Norwalk, Ohio in a couple weeks, where Beckman has the most wins (three) of any Funny Car driver there, the Southern California native could be peaking at just the right time.

A win puts everyone on the right track,” Beckman said. “You can’t guarantee a win, but you have a better chance of winning if everyone is in a positive mood. It helps to have some history with the team, especially when you make a mistake like I did in Chicago.

“But we’ve done some good things and they know I’ll get back on track. All of us are going to make mistakes, but being close and having history together, that helps. Overall, everyone is putting in a great effort.”

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Kyle Busch happy with first stint: ‘Put me in the car, there’s excitement!’

AP Photo/Terry Renna
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Rolex 24 at Daytona debut of the “KB Show” was cut short by a strategy maneuver but still delivered drama and a positive result.

Kyle Busch got the No. 14 RCF GT3 Lexus back on the lead lap and back in contention for a GTD victory at Daytona International Speedway.

“It was good,” Kyle Busch said with a broad smile after a 42-minute stint. “Just, uh, shit, put me in the car, and there’s excitement around! Drove all my way back to the lead lap and everything.

“Overall, we’ve had a good experience and hell I only got one stint in, so I’m ready for more. Sign me up, coach!”

The two-time Cup champion was expected to drive for at least 90 minutes, but the first full-course caution of the race (with 19 hours and 16 minutes remaining) caused AIM Vasser Sullivan to change up its drive plan. Busch was called to the pits in favor of Parker Chase.

“With all the strategy and the way the wave-bys work here, it’s quite different than what we’re accustomed to (in NASCAR),” said Busch, who likely will drive longer now later in the race. “That wasn’t bad. To get ourselves back on the lead lap and back to a position where we can start scrapping again hopefully is what we needed.

“So I got one stint in, but I’m trying to save myself and (teammate) Jack (Hawksworth) for a little later.”

Busch climbed into the car shortly after 6 p.m. as the last of the No. 14’s four drivers. He complained a few times on his radio about traffic, which he said was his biggest challenge.

“There were a couple of instances we ran down a smaller car, and (it was) just mirror driving in front of us,” he said. “That was pretty bad. We lost probably 2 seconds on that. Overall, I guess that’s road racing.

The yellow flag was exactly what Busch’s team needed after being forced to start from the rear of the field when it missed qualifying because of an engine change. Hawksworth, who started the race, said the car was “quick in the wrong places and slow in the right places” after struggling with handling and speed in the first stint.

“I don’t feel we’re out of it,” Hawksworth said. “It’s a very long race. Still early days. We need to work on having speed for the end of the race. The position right now doesn’t really make any difference. We’ll need to find some performance at the end of the race to fight for the win.”