Thursday, June 28, 2012
Beckman gets nostalgic about competing at Route 66 and could be candidate for next Funny Car time traveler
If Jack Beckman could pick any car to drive this weekend at Route 66 Raceway it would be a 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 instead of his Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car.
Instead of nitromethane helping to produce 8,000 horsepower, the fuel source would be plutonium producing 1.21 gigawatts of power. A supercharger would be replaced by the "flux capacitor."
Sadly, the NHRA Route 66 Nationals near Chicago is not a science fiction movie like "Back to the Future" in which Doc's DeLorean was the star of the time-travel saga.
That car's lure for Beckman wouldn't be speed as much as it would be the ability to travel back in time to the glory days of Funny Car racing in the late 1960s.
"Southern California was the hotbed for Top Fuel but Chicago and the Midwest was the hotbed for Funny Cars," said the Southern California native. "Chicago was the mecca. Guys could live there and be within half of a day from five tracks."
One of the Funny Car pioneers is Don Schumacher, who lists Beckman's Schumacher Electric Corp. Dodge as one of seven cars he campaigns in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.
"Just think about it: Back in the early seventies Don ran three Funny Cars out of dad's garage. You hope to last long enough to win a Wally (trophy) at every NHRA track, but Chicago is high on my list because it's in Don's backyard and it always will remind me of all the Funny Car history of that area."
Beckman and crew chief Todd Smith only need to improve a little on what the team accomplished a year ago at Joliet when it qualified fourth and advanced to the semifinals.
The duo also did well two weeks ago at Bristol, Tenn., where it qualified third and advanced to the semifinals in the event won by Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps.
After a weekend off, Beckman and the NHRA pro tour gird for two consecutive weekends of racing. That alone makes him appreciate what the Funny Car pioneers did to create one of the most popular divisions in all of motorsports.
"Sometimes we complain about racing back-to-back weekends but think about what Don and team's like the Chi-Town Hustler or 'Jungle Jim' Liberman did. In the summer they'd race three or four days a week and at three different venues.
"And there were only a few NHRA national events for them to go to, and they'd go there hoping if they won it would increase their booking value for match-races.
"It's always nice to wax nostalgic, but we probably wouldn't have jobs today were it not for what real racers like Don did 40 years ago.
"And I bet they had a heckuva time doing it."