National Hot Rod Association Media Conference
November 14, 2012
THE MODERATOR: Now we're moving on, as we increase the speed here to over 300 miles an hour, champion Jack Beckman. He beat his rival and teammate Ron Capps by two points to win the championship on Sunday in Pomona. It went down to the wire, to the semifinals. Capps lost to Courtney Force in front of Beckman, and Beckman was crowned the champion before he even had to race eventual race winner Cruz Pedregon.
Jack during the season raced to three victories, had four No.1 qualifying positions, and perhaps the biggest key to his season, setting the national performance record and giving him a 20‑point bonus in Reading, Pennsylvania.
Jack, you said on Sunday you needed a little time to kind of wrap your arms around this championship. Well, you've had two days to think about it. Has it all sunk in yet?
JACK BECKMAN: I don't think it's all sunk in yet, but I'm sitting out on my back patio, and I still own my Super Comp car, and I'm staring at the trailer, and on the side of it says Super Comp 2003 world champion, and I went, wow, and we can add a Funny Car one to that one now, too.
After going to the banquet and talking and having the crew there in tuxedos, I think that kind of formalizes everything.
THE MODERATOR: Did being in the thick of the battle last year, did that kind of help your focus and concentration this time around?
JACK BECKMAN: That's a great question that's tough to answer with 100 percent certainty. Probably. It certainly didn't hurt being there with that pressure at the last race of the year and a great chance of winning the championship.
I wish I could give you a more articulate answer to that, but I think the short answer is it didn't hurt.
Q. What have you done to celebrate your championship?
JACK BECKMAN: I fixed the sprinklers in the backyard and went and retrieved my motor home that had a dead battery stuck at Pomona. I've taken my son to school, he's got basketball practice. It's pretty much back to life as usual. I have such a list of stuff around the house that I've got to get done in a short amount of time, and it's interesting because after all that and walking back and forth and trying to get stuff in the house cleaned up and then I walk past the championship trophy, and then you just kind of remind yourself it all ended the way we hoped it would.
Q. I was talking to the guys like Force and guys like Fedderly and even Graham Light. It's a long time since we had a national event at Sanair, Quebec, and we haven't had one for a good number of years now, and most of the guys who remember that national event in Quebec in Canada really wish they would get another one back in this country. Would you like to see a national event north of the border?
JACK BECKMAN: I'd actually like to see one north and south of the border. I think to truly make it international, it would behoove us to spread out a little bit, and I think the potential audiences on both sides of the U.S. borders would take this sport to a higher level.
Traveling overseas is a little bit more difficult to put all of our stuff in containers and go over there, and these crew guys are already away from home so many days a year, I think that's too high of a demand to put on them.
Yeah, I would love‑‑ I love going to new racetracks and bringing them on tour. I hate losing racetracks to the tour. We don't go to Memphis anymore, we don't go to Richmond, but next year we'll be in Epping, New Hampshire. I'd love to get Canada back on the schedule. I've never been there. And I'd also like to get something in Mexico on the schedule. I think the appeal would be tremendous both sides of the border.
Q. Is floppers where it's at for you right now? Is there any plan to move the engine in the back and go real long?
JACK BECKMAN: You know, I've always been a dragster guy since I was seven and went to my first drag race. I absolutely fell in love with the candy apple paint jobs on the Funny Cars and the way that they all had names, but when they push started the dragsters on the last beat of the National Anthem and you saw those long chassis flexing and the James Warrens, the Don Garlitses, that was it for me.
The reason I'm in a Funny Car is there wasn't any dragster rides available in 2006, and I knew Don Schumacher would give me the best chance of having a winning car.
I love Funny Cars now. I find them extremely challenging. I think the dragsters can get evil wicked on some runs, but on the dragsters it's kind of like being in a Ferrari on the Autobahn. You've just got to whisper on the steering wheel. The Funny Cars are like driving a motor home in a crosswind with a bad alignment job. They're very, very challenging and I enjoy that aspect of it.
I would love to go back to Top Fuel one day. I'd love to be able to be in Top Fuel car and have a chance to win a race in one of them, but right now I'm real comfortable in a Funny Car.
Q. You do have the story telling ability, and now that you're a Funny Car champion, if you're going to take another notch from John Force's legacy, you're going talk in a hoarse laryngitis type voice on a regular basis.
JACK BECKMAN: I've got a great story for you. You used to do the race report Sunday evenings, and I don't know, this is probably 19 or 20 years ago, I won a race at Palmdale in my bracket dragster, came home and I couldn't wait to get a cassette tape and put it in and record you, and you mentioned‑‑ and it was a three‑second mention, that I had won that race that day, and I just thought, not from a narcissistic standpoint, but I just thought, man, that's so cool, I've made it, I got my name mentioned by Joe Benson on the radio, and since that day it just keeps getting more and more cool.
Q. What was it like in the car when you saw that Capps had lost?
JACK BECKMAN: A little bit surreal because, interesting story, I live 30 miles from Pomona so I commuted back and forth for the race. So Sunday morning on the way there, I called Todd Smith. We had qualified third, the NAPA team had qualified first, so that means NHRA goes to Ron Tobler and lets him pick of the eight pairs first round where in the run order they want to be; then Cruz Pedregon will get to pick second and we'll get to pick third. And I thought we'll know where NAPA is going to run, let's run in front of them to put pressure on them.
Well, Todd said they just came by, NAPA picked third pair, we picked fifth pair. I said you know what, I've got another idea, let's just run behind them and not worry about it.
Well, then first round we win, and we're the quickest DT of all the first round winners, which means we now get first choice of which pair we want to be for second round. And Todd picked the last pair, which meant that, again, I've got to sit strapped in that car and listen to the PA and see if the NAPA team wins. And you don't ever want to root against them because we really, really, really like those people over there. That crew was my crew for three years, we just wanted to root for us. But it was an added dimension of pressure having to listen to them. They win, now it's squarely back on us, we have to win or we lose the championship.
So when they lost to Courtney in the semifinals, some of our guys start pumping their fists, and I got on the radio and said we have to calm down, guys, we have to go out and win this round. And it was such a letdown to lose in the semifinals, and that just tells you how important every single run is in what we do. Second place means that you're a loser.
And as I'm slowing down after Cruz beat us in the semifinals, I was really bummed out until I reminded myself as soon as I turned off the racetrack, they're going to guide me over to the podium and there's a big trophy waiting for this team.
Q. During the last few conference calls you really didn't speak much about the cancer and your battle with that. I'm just wondering, after you've fought cancer, beat cancer, does everything else become a game for you? Is that the way you've looked at your professional career?
JACK BECKMAN: No, that's an intriguing question. It puts things in a larger framework. You know, I've gotten some comments from some crew members over the years that it seems like I don't care that much when we lose or if I've got beat on a holeshot, and I said, no, I care a tremendous amount, but I've got 45 seconds of slowing that race car down and turning off the track to put it in perspective before I get out. And I don't kick the race car and I don't throw my helmet, no matter how bad I feel about losing.
And trust me, losing is still like getting socked in the gut. But it doesn't compare to having a sick kid or having cancer. And somebody that's never been through that, there's no way you could expect them to put that perspective on things that happen out on the racetrack.
No, I take my job very seriously. Our job is to win races, and we're supposed to represent Valvoline and Schumacher Electric and the sponsors in a positive way and in a winning sort of way. But I recognize that after getting past the cancer, no matter how this race goes, I'm going to get a chance to go to another race.
Q. Where do you have that trophy that you pass by all the time?
JACK BECKMAN: It was too damned heavy. I set it on the floor in the office, and my wife put it where she wanted. She's the organizer anyway. If I would have spent 20 minutes measuring, leveling, adjusting shelves, she would have moved it somewhere else anyway, so it's sitting by the pool table in the living room underneath a picture of the race car. It looks pretty cool.
Q. I have a little story for you. Years ago you were running the Blackbird in Super Comp. You and Rod Fuller were sitting on my brother's trailer watching the race. My brother also was running in Super Comp at Infineon at the time, and you made the comment, this is what I'm going to do. How does it feel to realize that dream and be the world champion?
JACK BECKMAN: God, you just brought back some memories. Wow. Let me see if I can articulate this.
If a little kid watched a rocket being launched to the moon and said, this is what I want to do someday, there's probably 10,000 little kids that said that and one of them got to do it.
But ‑ and that's the thing I love about this country‑ if you work hard enough and want something enough, you can make it happen. But my journey was pretty interesting. I always think it's the people around me far more than me that have made this happen. Roger and Karen Comstock with MTS, they helped get me into my first fuel car. They've been on the side of every fuel car I've ever driven down a racetrack; Don Schumacher giving me the right parts and people so that we could have a team that could win. I'm just a real small part of it.
I was just a seven‑year old kid that just was in awe the first time I went and saw these cars run, and I couldn't believe it, and I still have these pinch‑me moments.
I'm 46, I'm supposed to be grown up and completely mature, and I've got a wife and two kids, and there's days I wake up and I go, holy crap, I get paid to drive a Nitro Funny Car. I got messages and calls from Jess VanDeventer, who 50 years ago won the NHRA Hot Car world championship; from Gary Beck, two‑time Top Fuel champion; from Bob Glidden, 10‑time world champion; and I got a message yesterday from Art Chrisman, and the only reason Art Chrisman may not be a household name is because when he went to work for an after‑market company they would not allow him to race a car. The guy won the first fuel and gas championships in 1959 at Bakersfield, the March Meet. He was an absolute rock star in this sport, and he still builds hotrods to this day.
The fact that those people even know my name, much less acknowledge me with congratulations, I think that might even mean more than all the wins in the Funny Car because as a seven‑year‑old kid these are the people that I thought were the absolute giants of the sport.
THE MODERATOR: That wraps up the questioning for Jack Beckman. We appreciate you taking some time out of your schedule to be on the call today with us, and once again, congratulations on your championship, and we look forward to seeing you back out there next year in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
JACK BECKMAN: You notice I went far shorter on my answers than I did during my speech. Antron, now you've got more time, and congrats to Eddie and Allen. What those guys did in Pro Stock vehicles where they've got to shift them and red lights have prevailed, it's stunning.
I just want to say something real quick: At the Phoenix test before the Winter Nationals, the first year Antron was in a Top Fuel car, a fan came by to my pits, and he said, can you believe this, they're putting a motorcycle guy in a Top Fuel car, he's never going to get this. And I told the guy, I said, you're completely wrong. He said, what are you talking about. I said, do you have any idea how tough it is to ride a Pro Stock Motorcycle and do it well. I said, Antron has got that athlete's mind, and he's going to be one of the best dragster drivers out here, and he just proved me right.
Thanks, guys, and have a great day.
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