• Residence: Norco, Calif.
• Hometown: Granada Hills, Calif.
• Date of birth: June 28, 1966
• On the Internet: twitter.com/fastjackbeckman, facebook.com/fastjackbeckman, ShoeRacing.com
• Wife: Jenna
• Children: Jason, Layla
• Height/weight: 6-foot, 185 pounds
• Hobbies: surfing, automotive mechanics
• Category: Funny Car
• Sponsor/car: Valvoline/Mail Terminal Services Dodge Charger R/T
• Team owner: Don Schumacher Racing
• Crew chief: Todd Smith
• NHRA Professional event titles: 15
• NHRA Professional final rounds: 31
• Career No. 1 qualifying positions: 8
• Career best elapsed time: 3.986 seconds, NHRA national record (Reading 2012)
• Career-best speed: 320.58 mph, NHRA national record (Reading 2012)
• 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
• 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 could write a book about overcoming hurdles life has laid before him, and the last chapter would delve into one of the greatest comeback stories in motorsports history and how the Southern California native and Don Schumacher Racing’s Valvoline/Schumacher Electric Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car captured the 2012 NHRA world championship.
The autobiography could start with his transition from a self-proclaimed high school dropout to an honorably discharged a U.S. Air Force sergeant four years later.
The next chapter would detail how he left a secure job of 10 years as an elevator technician to become an instructor with Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School.
Through his involvement with the school, he met his wife, Jenna, and Mail Terminal Services owners Rodger and Karen Comstock, who a few years later would begin supporting his dream to drive a Top Fuel Dragster a year after his non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma went into remission and continue as one of his sponsors.
The crescendo would build in 2006 when he was hired by Don Schumacher Racing toward the end of the that season to drive one of the organization’s Funny Car, and six years later he would be crowned the world champion after outlasting DSR teammate Ron Capps by two points matching the closest championship battle ever in an NHRA professional category.
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 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing series, 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, Todd Smith, a veteran Top Fuel tuner who never had led a Funny Car team.
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, Jack won three 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, Calif., Jack had to keep pace with Capps and when Capps lost in the semifinals 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 an El Camino. 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 his life after earning his GED before passing the Armed Services test and enlisting 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 working 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 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 a semiprofessional.
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 was asked to drive a Top Fuel Dragster owned by Dexter Tuttle and partially sponsored by the Comstocks’ Mail Terminal Systems company.
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 while 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.”
And owning two NHRA world championships also is has been a nice payoff.
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