Mopar-powered Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car driver “Fast Jack” Beckman was seeking a lot of firsts on a picture-perfect afternoon during the rain-delayed 59th annual NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
First winner in 2019. First winner in a Mopar Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT body. First career win at his home track. The 2012 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car champion and his Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) team came out swinging in the season opener with three round wins in the Infinite Hero Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT, but were just four feet short of checking all those boxes late Monday afternoon.
While Beckman stormed to his 57th career finals appearance, the rest of the DSR Dodge Mopar contingent had mixed results on Monday. Tommy Johnson Jr. continued his Pomona magic aboard the DSR Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT turning on a pair of win lights after reaching the final to close out 2018 at the Fairplex. Ron Capps, a three-time Winternationals champion, raced the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT into the second round while two-time reigning Winternationals champion Matt Hagan was upset in the first round. Leah Pritchett scored an upset win in her HEMI-powered Sparkling Ice/Mopar Top Fuel Dragster before coming up short in the second round.
Beckman was set up for success in eliminations thanks to a stout qualifying run of 3.900 Saturday afternoon. After a workman like triumph over Phil Burkart in the first round with a run of 4.102 ET, the Norco, California, native posted his best lap of the weekend (3.875 ET) to defeat Cruz Pedregon in his Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT and set up and all-DSR semifinal versus Johnson. The Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT left first, but a clean run by Beckman put him position to finally secure a Pomona victory. It was the 41st meeting between Beckman and Robert Hight, 11th in the finals. Hight left first, but Beckman was right there through the run ultimately losing by .0073 seconds.
Johnson carried momentum from last November’s run to the final, qualifying third and taking down formidable foes Tim Wilkerson in round one and Shawn Langdon in the second round to set up an all-DSR semifinal. Johnson took the starting line advantage, but couldn’t maintain traction and was finished for the weekend.
Ron Capps completed the top-five in qualifying driving the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT and looked strong in racing past Gary Densham in round one of eliminations. He battled John Force to the wire in round two, but his pass of 4.092 ET wasn’t enough to take down Force. Matt Hagan, who qualified the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT No. 4, had any early advantage on Force in the opening round, but slowed to a lap of 4.140 and couldn’t advance when Force put up a session-best run of 3.890 ET.
2019 NHRA Championship — Point Standings After Round 1 of 24:
NHRA Funny Car Points:
1. Robert Hight – 121
2. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT – 100
3. Tommy Johnson, Jr., Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT – 81
4. John Force – 71
5. Shawn Langdon – 58
6. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT – 57
7. Bob Tasca III – 55
8. Cruz Pedregon, Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT – 54
9. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT – 37
10. Jim Campbell, Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT – 32
NHRA Top Fuel Points:
1. Doug Kalitta – 117
2. Steve Torrence – 106
3. Terry McMillen – 72
4. Mike Salinas – 70
5. Billy Torrence – 56
6t.. Leah Pritchett, Mopar Dodge HEMI – 52
6t. Austin Prock – 52
8. Antron Brown – 37
9t. Richie Crampton – 35
9t. Scott Palmer – 35