Beckman, Langdon, Gray, Hines are quickest qualifiers Friday

Jack Beckman continued his late-season hot streak by making the third quickest Funny Car run in NHRA history Friday at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at BIR.

Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Shane Gray (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders in their categories at the penultimate regular season race in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

Jack Beckman, Funny Car
Jack Beckman, Funny Car

Beckman, who also owns the top two quickest runs in his class, had the best car in both qualifying sessions but powered his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger to the day’s leading run in the final session, posting a track record performance of 3.946 seconds at 324.75 mph.

The effort continues an impressive streak of three races starting in Sonoma, Calif., and Seattle, where Beckman posted jaw-dropping track record runs. In Sonoma, he clocked a 3.921-second effort and then outdid that performance the next weekend with a 3.912 at Pacific Raceways.

“Unloading with a good run absolutely puts us in a wonderful position,” Beckman said. “We were really trying to run a 3.93. There were several areas on the 3.94 where it wasn’t as good as we were hoping it would be, and that’s a good feeling when you miss it by a little bit and the car still runs that good. It’s my best speed by a bunch, and we took over the points lead with that one. After leaving Pomona in 18th, being in first for now is a wonderful position.”

He credits crew chief Jimmy Prock for the amazing performance of his car, and for making the rest of the teams dig deep to figure out a new way of running their machines. There were eight three-second runs in today’s qualifying, including two side-by-side three-second passes.

Andrew Hines. Pro Stock Bike
Andrew Hines. Pro Stock Bike

“I have never seen so many Funny Cars gain so much in such a short period of time,” Beckman said. “What happened was they looked at our time slip. It used to be that a certain amount of driveshaft speed on the computer was all it tolerated because the car wouldn’t make it much further. Now when they look and see our numbers, they go, ‘We’ve got to approach this differently.’ The only way to get quicker early is to get that wheel speed up early. It shows how smart all our crew chiefs are out here, but it stuns me how quickly they’ve gathered us back up. We’ve got to figure out how to take it to another level from here. Everybody has stepped out of their comfort level to chase us.”

In Top Fuel, 2013 world champ Langdon moved to the top of the 16-car qualifying order on the day’s final run with a 3.749 seconds at 321.35 mph in his Knuckle Sandwich/Toyota dragster.

Langdon, who is currently seventh in points and has only one win this season in two final-round appearances, says his team is peaking at just the right time.

“We really felt like we turned a corner with the car in the middle of the Sonoma race,” Langdon said. “We continued to make good runs in Seattle, where we were fortunate enough to get to the finals, and we made two more great runs today. It’s good timing. Alan [Johnson, team owner] always seems to turn it up a notch when we’re getting close to Countdown [to the Championship] time. It’s a good race. Hopefully, we can do a little celebrating tonight in The Zoo (campground).”

Gray powered his Gray Motorsports Chevy Camaro to the qualifying lead in Pro Stock with a run of 6.607 seconds at 208.88 mph. Gray, who is looking to earn his first No. 1 qualifying position of the season if his time can hold through Saturday’s two sessions, had the quickest car in both sessions today.

“It’s important for me to get as many qualifying points as I can because here lately I haven’t been getting many points on Sunday,” Gray said. “They’re all important. It was nice to get all six of them today. Maybe we can get lucky and get a few tomorrow. It will be up to me to go out and do a good job on Sunday and see if we can capitalize on a good, fast car.”

Hines, the defending series champ and a two-time winner at BIR, rode his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to the Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying lead with a performance of 6.937 seconds at 190.54 mph.

“Believe me, this is a big breath of fresh air for me,” said Hines, who is third in points and still looking for his first No. 1 qualifying position of the season. “It’s been a struggle for me pretty much all year. I got away with that one win there in Charlotte, but to run the way that we did just now, it’s nice to have a quick bike going into Saturday, and I’m going to take it as it comes.”

The third qualifying sessions for the pro classes starts at 1 p.m. Saturday, followed by the fourth and final qualifying session at 3:30 p.m. Saturday’s schedule includes live music that starts at 9 p.m. and a spectacular fireworks display that begins at dusk.

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Friday’s results after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the 34th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, 17th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.  Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.

Top Fuel — 1. Shawn Langdon, 3.749 seconds, 323.04 mph; 2. Richie Crampton, 3.754, 318.54; 3. Dave Connolly, 3.758, 330.31; 4. Steve Torrence, 3.758, 326.63; 5. Spencer Massey, 3.763, 330.31; 6. J.R. Todd, 3.780, 328.78; 7. Brittany Force, 3.787, 326.00; 8. Larry Dixon, 3.787, 320.28; 9. Tony Schumacher, 3.807, 318.62; 10. Antron Brown, 3.813, 317.42; 11. Clay Millican, 3.855, 312.64; 12. Terry McMillen, 3.867, 310.98.  Not Qualified: 13. Chris Karamesines, 3.918, 306.26; 14. Morgan Lucas, 3.977, 234.66; 15. Doug Kalitta, 3.987, 226.35; 16. Wayne Newby, 4.078, 227.15; 17. Luigi Novelli, 4.150, 260.56.

Funny Car — 1. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.946, 324.75; 2. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.959, 320.66; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.974, 319.60; 4. Robert Hight, Chevrolet Camaro, 3.974, 319.07; 5. Chad Head, Toyota Camry, 3.976, 318.99; 6. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.996, 320.97; 7. John Force, Camaro, 4.010, 317.94; 8. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.011, 317.72; 9. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.035, 314.39; 10. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.048, 315.78; 11. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.084, 312.57; 12. John Hale, Charger, 4.123, 303.84.  Not Qualified: 13. Cruz Pedregon, 4.166, 289.20; 14. Brian Stewart, 4.318, 242.93; 15. Dale Creasy Jr., 4.565, 202.12; 16. Tony Pedregon, 4.691, 179.59.

Pro Stock — 1. Shane Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.607, 209.20; 2. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.609, 208.26; 3. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.616, 208.20; 4. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.618, 208.68; 5. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.618, 208.49; 6. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.620, 208.10; 7. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.624, 208.14; 8. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.635, 208.07; 9. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.635, 207.62; 10. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.645, 208.04; 11. Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.647, 208.81; 12. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.669, 207.50.  Not Qualified: 13. Deric Kramer, 6.686, 207.11; 14. Dave River, 6.736, 204.63; 15. Mark Hogan, 6.814, 198.70.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.937, 190.54; 2. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.949, 191.97; 3. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.951, 193.88; 4. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.994, 192.49; 5. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.997, 191.84; 6. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.997, 190.51; 7. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.001, 189.10; 8. Matt Smith, Victory, 7.012, 188.57; 9. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.024, 191.35; 10. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 7.041, 188.65; 11. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.042, 189.82; 12. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 7.061, 186.79.  Not Qualified: 13. Angie Smith, 7.113, 185.54; 14. Mike Berry, 7.145, 185.05; 15. Hector Arana, 7.461, 188.83.