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Jack Beckman revels in provisional No. 1, father-son moment

POMONA, Calif. -- Jack Beckman clearly felt at home at Auto Club Raceway, and he drove like he owned the place Thursday.

He walked to the tower after ruling the Funny Car class with his 4.139-second pass at 308.14 -- as the only driver in the 4.13-second and 308-mph range.

Beckman took his four-year-old son Jason on that happy walk -- that father-son walk that both will remember as one of the most special in their lives. And he shared why this storied dragstrip in the cradle of the sport, Southern California, felt like a second home to him. After all, this is where he literally has taught thousands of drag racers how to drive as an instructor for Frank Hawley's Drag Racing School, men and women, young and older, many of whom he must face at each Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.

"Daddy, how did you do when you were here?" Jason asked.

"I think I did pretty OK," Dad said.

Beckman was more than "pretty OK" Thursday.

"There's a lot of familiarity. It's a sense that you belong here," Beckman said. "If you're a baseball nut, you go to any major-league stadium: the smell of the grass, the look of the infield . . . You feel a connection to it. And I'm that way with dragstrips, but certainly more so at Pomona because of my time spent up here instructing, watching runs down the track. It's a great feeling."

Beckman said after his run Thursday that he was grateful and happy "honest to God, to go down the track," for so many Funny Car drivers experienced tire smoke. With a successful full pass on the 1,000-foot course, he said, he could get enough data that "we can pick away at it from there. If you go out and smoke the tires, you'll never know how much you missed it by."

But the technical side of it, which fascinates Beckman normally, wasn't his main focus Thursday.

"The best feeling about that run," he said, "is on the tow back, looking up at he grandstands at the 24th section and seeing my son jumping up and down. That warms my heart. If we were first or last just to see that was awesome. Given the choice, though, I'll take first!"

He has it, at least overnight. He'll go for his second of four qualifying runs sometime between 2 and 3 p.m. Friday. If his performance numbers last through that session and two more Saturday, he'll have his career fifth top qualifier, second at this "Home Sweet Home" racetrack and first at the Winternationals.

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