Jack Beckman closed the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season by racing the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car to his second victory of the year at the 55th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif.
The win for Beckman, his 30th career Funny Car triumph, concluded a season where DSR clinched 11 Funny Car victories in the 24-race NHRA campaign.
Beckman and Funny Car teammate Matt Hagan made strong championship bids, with both drivers entering the race weekend within striking distance of picking up the 2019 title. The two former world champions started race day needing to advance two rounds beyond eventual champion Robert Hight, but both came up short in the end. Beckman finished second and Hagan, winner of the two previous NHRA events, finished third in the final standings.
Beckman opened the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff with a victory in the MOPAR Express Lane NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil in Reading, Pa. and was in contention throughout. He advanced to the final in Charlotte and established new track records in Las Vegas en route to a semifinal finish before this weekend’s final in Pomona.
“Fast Jack” qualified his Dean ‘Guido’ Antonelli/John Medlen-tuned Infinite Hero Hellcat second to start race day at the Auto Club NHRA Finals. His machine-like performances all day included consistent runs for the 2012 Funny Car champion, starting with his pass of 3.946 seconds to defeat John Hale.
He ousted J.R. Todd in the second round and took down upset-minded Blake Alexander in the semifinal to advance to his seventh final of the year. The final versus Hight was a rematch of both the season opener, also at Auto Club Raceway, and the Charlotte Countdown race. Beckman made his fifth consecutive three-second pass of 3.920 seconds – the quickest Funny Car E.T. of race day – to secure his first Pomona victory, but he came up just eight points short of earning his second Funny Car title.
“I’ve never won in Funny Car at Pomona. I’ve won Super Comp at the Winternationals twice, so it was awesome to get that win today,” said the Norco, Calif. resident of finally realizing Funny Car victory on his home turf. “If you win at the Winternationals, the rest of the year is going to be okay because you’ve already won something, but if you do it in the finals, your off-season is fantastic. My guys have given me such a great race car lately, and I stumbled a couple of times, and I don’t want to ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’ myself in the off-season. But it is what it is, we finished solidly in second, capped off the year with a win, we have a phenomenal car, and things are awesome right now. I’m feeling on top of the world.”
By closing out the year ranked second, Beckman has now finished in the ‘top five’ in 11 out of 13 full-time seasons. He ends 2019 as the highest-ranked DSR driver, which allows him the opportunity to select a Dodge SRT high-performance vehicle to drive for a year.
“The crew guys are already telling me ‘it’s staying in Indy, you’re going to have to come visit it,’” he joked of taking delivery of his new set of wheels.
“I don’t think it would be a stretch to say we had the best Funny Car this year, or at least the last several races,” Beckman went on to add. “Guido and John treated this season like a regular-season in the Countdown. We sacrificed a few races early in the year to get the clutch package right, to get dialed-in to the new track prep, and to get all our spare parts sorted out. And it paid off. Once we got into the Countdown, the car was thumping from the get-go. We runnered-up at Indy, won the next race at Maple Grove, we were always a factor out there, and I’m certain they’re as fired up about next season as I am.”
The 2020 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season kicks off with the season-opener, the NHRA Winternationals, at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Feb. 7th.