2012 NHRA Funny Car champ Jack Beckman sits just outside the top 10 with one race left in the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, this weekend’s Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. Beckman goes to Indy with a new crew chief in Todd Okuhara, who happened to be Beckman’s first crew chief when he joined Don Schumacher Racing in 2006.
“It's very familiar to be around him to me even though we haven't been in the same trailer for several years,” said Beckman in a recent NHRA teleconference. “I think the intent of all of this is to give us back some direction. And what you need to do is be able to get your car to the finish line and make it predictable. Once you make it predictable, then you can lean on it and make it quick. And a quick, predictable car is pretty damned hard to beat. If you want to see that, look at what (John) Force and Robert Hight have been able to do this year. That's what two quick and predictable cars will do. They take home a lot of trophies. We've been one or the other, but not both this year. So I think that's where we're trying to get back to, is quick and predictable.”
Beckman has made the Countdown to the Championship each season since it debuted in 2007, but knows that nothing is certain, including finding the winner’s circle – Beckman’s last win came in St. Louis in 2012. He also knows making the playoffs this year will be a challenge.
“With nitro in the tank and 10,000 horsepower, it's very difficult for me to tell you that we are back on track and we're going to be great,” said Beckman. “So what I'll go off of is track records. And everything I've seen Todd Okuhara do in my entire nitro career has been to take cars and make them run fast and make them run consistent and turn them into race winners. So with just knowing that, I feel much more confident about our ability to be able to go rounds here at Indy and get into the top ten. I would be surprised, I'd be devastated, and I'd also be surprised if we don't make the top ten. Tim Wilkerson's in tenth right now. It's a single car. Tim runs it on a pretty tight budget. Tim owns the car, finds the money for it, tunes the thing and drives the thing. I'm a hired driver on a seven car team for Don Schumacher Racing. And the amount of resources we have are very impressive. We have a lot of smart people over here that are able to put their heads together. If we can't get this Valvoline car into the Countdown, I'd be devastated, but it means that we didn't earn it.”
The Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals feature five qualifying sessions for the Mello Yello Series, the first one taking place Friday, August 29th at 6 p.m. ET. The second and third sessions take place Saturday, August 30th at 2:30 and 6 p.m. ET, with the final two qualifying sessions on Sunday, August 31st at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. ET. Final eliminations take place Monday, September 1st beginning at 11 a.m. ET. Keep up with the action at www.nhra.com.
Quotes in this piece provided by the NHRA.
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