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Beckman gives, then gets, in latest saga with DSR mate Capps

Jack Beckman celebrates his Funny Car victory Sunday, May 20 against Don Schumacher Racing colleague Ron Capps at the NHRA's Dollar General Summernationals at Topeka. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA)
Jack Beckman celebrates his Funny Car victory Sunday, May 20 against Don Schumacher Racing colleague Ron Capps at the NHRA's Dollar General Summernationals at Topeka. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA)

Jack Beckman had to give up his crew chief, his crew, his hauler, his car, and his comfort zone to accommodate Don Schumacher Racing colleague Ron Capps back in April when the NAPA Dodge Charger driver was struggling mightily.

It began with Capps' failure to qualify at Las Vegas. All of a sudden, Capps went to three consecutive final rounds with Rahn Tobler as tuner, stopped Robert Hight's four-race winning streak in the semifinals at Houston, and together they won the Atlanta race, ending John Force Racing's six-event reign.

Then Beckman started to falter and had a DNQ of his own, at Houston. In the next race, at Atlanta as Capps soared, Beckman lost to rookie Courtney Force, his former driving-school student.

But he and new crew chief Todd Smith and their brotherhood of mechanics began to bond with one another as this past weekend's Dollar General Summernationals at Heartland Park Topeka approached. And together they put the Valvoline NextGen Dodge Charger into Sunday's final round -- and beat DSR colleague Ron Capps as he made his fourth straight money-round appearance.

And nobody could have been happier for Beckman than Capps, as they assured a victory in this 700th Funny Car race in NHRA competition for boss Don Schumacher, who was monitoring the race from home while recovering from minor out-patient surgery on his foot.

So eager was Beckman to win for the first time since last fall at Phoenix -- 11 races ago --that he was too aggressive approaching the starting line. He unintentionally rolled too far toward the starting line, turning on both staging lights before Capps crossed the first one.

"I heard Jack's car go and saw him light both (staging) bulbs. I thought he got a red light for leaving too soon," Capps said.

Beckman said later that he "took a shot" that produced a nearly perfect and almost-incalculable reaction time of 0.004 of a second. Of course, it was dangerously close to a red-light foul that would have disqualified him.

But Beckman carried off the inadvertent strike and won on a holeshot in 4.158 seconds at 303.09 mph. That left Capps about four feet behind at the finish line, although Capps had a far quicker and faster 4.107-second, 304.39-mph pass.

"Now we know we have a good-running race car and we're right back in the hunt,"
Beckman said as he improved from sixth to fourth in the standings. Capps remained No. 2, 179 points off Robert Hight's pace as the tour heads to Englishtown, N.J..

Capps said if he had to lose, he was glad it was to Beckman and his team.


"I was proud -- and I know Rahn and the crew were -- to have those guys up there next to us," Capps said of that final pairing. "All the DSR crew guys and drivers are so unselfish. If we had to lose, it should have been to those guys, because they've been through so much."

Still, Capps said, he thought he might have been able to steal the spotlight. "He was just barely ahead of us and we were creeping up on him. I thought we had a chance," Capps said. "It was just a close race."

After Beckman's rather accidental gamble paid off and he climbed from his car, he said, he explained his actions to Capps.

"I went right up to Ron when we got out of our cars and told him I got away with one there. I dodged a bullet. When I lit both of them I had to back away from it in my head real quick," Beckman said. "I knew I had to cut a good light but not that way. He was sincerely happy for me and the guys. He knows he's not done winning this year."

Beckman said, "We knew that NAPA car with Rahn Tobler goes down the track every run, and it's one of the fastest every run. When we saw him run 4.12 in the semifinals, we knew we couldn't run that and risk smoking the tires. Todd said, 'Let's put a 4.15 in (our car), and I took a shot at the starting line."

Capps said it is a compliment to his NAPA Brakes team that Beckman had to gamble at the starting line for a chance to win: "We have such a great race car that to have guys feel like they have to go to the starting line knowing they have to take a shot for a chance to win makes you feel pretty good. If you have a bull's eye on your back, that means you're doing stuff right."

They both are, and Beckman is savoring his moment.

"Every win I get now, I tell myself to appreciate it, because it could be your last. This win is so gratifying," he said.

While boosting DSR's NHRA national-event victory total to 180, Beckman and Capps marked the 13th final-round meeting between two DSR Funny Cars. It was the third time for the Beckman-Capps combo. Capps defeated Beckman in 2010 at Sonoma, Calif., and Beckman beat Capps in 2007 at Denver.

"It was such a great weekend. We don't want to keep harping on the stat, but this car has gone down the track 49 out of the last 50 runs without smoking the tires. That's unheard of," Capps, who was looking for a fourth victory at Heartland Park Topeka, said.

"It's such a fun race car to drive right now," he said. "It's fun just showing up at the race track and learning how to elevate myself as a driver and help make this team better. It's so much fun right now."

Both winner and runner-up could say that Sunday night.

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