• Residence: Norco, Calif.
• Hometown: Granada Hills, Calif.
• Date of birth: June 28, 1966
• Wife: Jenna
• Children: Jason, Layla
• Height/weight: 6-foot, 185 pounds
• Hobbies: surfing, automotive mechanics
• On the Internet: twitter.com/fastjackbeckman, facebook.com/fastjackbeckman, ShoeRacing.com
• Category: Funny Car
• Sponsor/car: Valvoline/Mail Terminal Services Dodge Charger R/T
• Team owner: Don Schumacher Racing
• Crew chief: Rob Flynn
• World championships 2 (Funny Car 2012; Super Comp 2003)
• NHRA Professional event titles: 15
• NHRA Professional final rounds: 34
• Career No. 1 qualifying positions: 10
• Career best elapsed time: 3.986 seconds, (Oct. 7, 2012, Reading, Pa. NHRA national record through 2013)
• Career-best speed: 320.58 mph, (Oct. 5, 2012, Reading, Pa.)
• Won the 2003 NHRA Super Comp world championship in the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series
• NHRA Sportsman event titles: 2
• NHRA Sportsman final rounds: 4
• On May 2, 2013, Jack was presented with the U.S. Air Force Wall of Achievers honor in Enlisted Heritage Hall at Gunter Annex of Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala. Heritage Hall presents tributes to enlisted men and women who have contributed to the growth and development of the United States Air Force. Among former enlisted airmen receiving the honor including President George W. Bush, Brigadier General Chuck Yeager, singers Johnny Cash and Gene Autry, actor Charlton Heston and comedian Flip Wilson.
• The City of Norco, Calif., presented him with the Key to City on Aug. 10, 2013, and declared the day “Fast Jack Beckman Day” to honor its resident for racing accomplishments and work as a national spokesman for the Chemotherapy: Myths or Facts campaign.
• Has been licensed in 12 different NHRA competition categories
• Consultant for Frank Hawley’s NHRA Drag Racing School where he has taught more than 7,000 students since 1998
• Former sergeant in U.S. Air Force
• Cancer survivor
Jack Beckman was disappointed at the end of the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Series season but his chin never lowered.
After he and the Valvoline MaxLife/MTS Mail for Wounded Warriors team won the 2012 NHRA Funny Car world championship they didn’t expect an easy ride to another season title and no one is better at putting life and racing into proper perspective than Jack.
But he never imagined 2013 would mark the first time since joining Don Schumacher Racing in 2006 that he would not celebrate with his team in a Mello Yello winner’s circle even though the team advanced to three championship rounds and finished the season ranked third.
“We never expected anyone to hand us the championship because we had the No. 1 on the car, but I believed we’d win at least one Wally (NHRA event trophy),” said Beckman, who did win the $100,000 Traxxas Nitro Shootout all-star race during the U.S. Nationals over Labor Day Weekend.”
The shootout paid a handsome $100,000 to the winning team and as special as the Traxxas trophy is, it still wasn’t a Wally.
“It wasn’t for a lack of trying. Our Valvoline/MTS guys worked hard but you can’t always control the outcome in racing, especially as tough as the Funny Car (category) has become.”
Since Beckman joined Don Schumacher Racing toward the end of the 2006 season, he has amassed a collection of 15 Wallys in 34 championship round appearances. He starts 2014 holding the NHRA national elapsed time record of 3.986 seconds that he set on Oct. 7, 2012.
Beyond the hard work produced by his Valvoline/MTS team, Beckman can be proud of two special campaigns he spearheaded at NHRA events.
Through sponsorship from Rodger and Karen Comstock’s Mail Terminal Services, Beckman’s Dodge Charger R/T carried the message of Wounded Warriors and encouraged NHRA fans to complete a special postcard provided by MTS to send a special message to a soldier injured in Afghanistan or Iraq.
As a cancer survivor, Beckman has served as a national spokesman for the Chemotherapy: Myths or Facts campaign to help others suffering from cancer and their families.
“Both of these programs are very special to me as a cancer survivor and former U.S. Air Force Airman,” said Jack, who made the transition from a self-proclaimed high school dropout to an honorably discharged sergeant four years later at age 21.
His passion for drag racing was so strong that he left a secure job of 10 years as an elevator technician in 1998 to become an instructor with Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School at Pomona, Calif.
Through his involvement with the school, he met his wife, Jenna, and the Comstocks, who in 2005 helped fulfill his dream to race professionally the year after he successfully completed treatment for non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Jack was optimistic about the 2012 season after crew chief Rahn Tobler and crew led him to a second-place finish in the 2011 NHRA championship standings with three event titles and one No. 1 qualifying position.
After the fourth event of the 2012 Mello Yello Drag season, Jack and his Valvoline/Schumacher Electric team were ranked third in points but at the end of that race team owner Don Schumacher opted to move Tobler and Jack’s crew, to teammate Capps after Capps’ didn’t qualify for that event at Las Vegas.
The following week, Jack had a new crew chief.
At the next event, the team lost in the second round of eliminations and the following event failed to quality. The third time out, Jack lost in the first round near Atlanta and dropped to sixth in points.
But two weeks later near Topeka, Kan., the “new” team won their first NHRA national event title together and the march to the championship began.
Over the last 16 NHRA events of 2012, Jack won three race titles and qualified No. 1 four times.
And no event was bigger for the team than the one on Oct. 5-8 at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa., where the team set NHRA national records for elapsed time (3.986 seconds) and speed (320.58 mph) and advanced to the semifinals. The E.T. record earned a 20-point bonus that was pivotal in his championship race with Capps.
In the season-finale at Pomona, Jack had to keep pace with Capps and when Capps lost in the semifinal round the championship went to Jack and his team.
Like many successful racecar drivers, Jack inherited the racing gene.
Jack’s father, Bob, and mother, JoAnne, were “car people” who introduced him to the mechanical aspects of street cars. By the time Jack was 17, he had owned several cars that contributed to honing his mechanical skills.
Jack notes that it was his Uncle John Jorgenson who convinced his parents to let him take Jack, who was 7, and his brother to Orange County International Raceway for their first drag race.
“The first time I saw those cars, felt those cars, smelled those cars, listened to them and watched them, everything about them was absolutely thrilling,” Jack recalls. “And from that day I knew that I wanted to drag race.”
His father – who goes by “Slow Bob” to contrast his son’s moniker of “Fast Jack” – was a hot-rodder. Bob didn’t race but passed on mechanical skills and sold his son a 1968 El Camino that he still owns. Once Jack passed his driving test in the El Camino on his 16th birthday, he started tinkering with its intake manifold, camshaft and other components.
Jack admits to losing interest in high school and left when he was 17 and began working full time in a tool warehouse. He knew he needed a new direction in life. After earning his GED and passing the Armed Services test, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force before he turned 18.
“That was likely the best decision I ever made,” he says. “It gave me direction, focus, job skills and a renewed sense of self-worth.”
He was honorably discharged as a sergeant at age 21.
Soon after returning home to Southern California, he joined the Funny Car team owned by Tim Grose where he worked on the bottom of the engine at races. But after the team lost sponsorship funding, Jack took a job in 1988 as an elevator technician for Westinghouse in Southern California. During that part of his life he began competing regularly in NHRA Sportsman categories.
Drag racing remained his passion and doing it full time was a dream. He quit the elevator company after 10 years to become an instructor at the Frank Hawley Drag Racing School. Among the 7,000 or more students he taught – including several of whom he has raced including John Force’s daughters – were some who continue to play major roles in his life.
In 2003, Jack drove his 160-mph dragster to the NHRA Super Comp world championship. Life was racing along right on track.
But the next year he began experiencing health problems that were ultimately diagnosed as high grade level 3B lymphoma, a cancer that had invaded his body from hip to neck. He underwent six months of chemotherapy treatments, but continued to teach at Hawley’s school and race as an amateur.
Throughout the ordeal, Jack was inspired by an outpouring of support from family, friends and fellow racers.
“People I barely knew would come up to me at the races and tell me they were thinking of me,” he says. “I can’t describe what that meant to me. It’s also nice not having to die to know how much people care about you.”
He had his last chemotherapy treatment on October 25, 2004, and remains in remission. As he continued to regain strength, he drove 12 races in 2005 in a Top Fuel Dragster owned by Dexter Tuttle and partially sponsored by MTS.
His journey to winning the 2012 NHRA Funny Car world champion began in 1986 when he made his first pass down a dragstrip in his El Camino in a time of 15.06 seconds and 90 mph when he was 19 and stationed at Clovis, N.M.
When he was discharged four years later, he moved up to NHRA bracket racing.
"First, it was all about the time slip. Then I realized you could win a trophy, and that's all that mattered. When I realized I could win money then my emphasis shifted to that.” Owning two NHRA world championships also is a nice payoff.
And helping people is a longer lasting prize.
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