BROWNSBURG, Ind. (April 10, 2012) - Jack Beckman cherishes each of the 12 trophies he's won in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.
But when pressed, admits that two are a little closer to his heart.
And each is from zMAX Dragway at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.
The first was earned when he won the inaugural Funny Car event title at the track in 2008.
The other was won a year ago in the Four-Wide NHRA Nationals, which will be held this weekend for the third straight year.
"The two trophies in my collection I value the most are both from Charlotte. I won the inaugural race there, and you'll only ever have one of those. And I won the Four-Wide last year and it's such a unique event that it makes that trophy special."
When Beckman and his Freightliner/Valvoline NextGen Dodge Charger R/T arrive at Charlotte for Friday qualifying the team will be ranked third in Funny Car points after finishing second last season to Don Schumacher Racing teammate Matt Hagan for the series championship.
The unique format or four-car heats throughout qualifying and Sunday's championship eliminations is another challenge for the veteran racer and drag racing instructor.
"When my friends say they're going to take a vacation and want to go to an NHRA event they've never attended I tell them the Four-Wide has to be on top of their list.
"It's so different. When you think how on earth can you top two 8,000-horsepower cars well, there are two choices: You either put a jump or Hot Wheels loop halfway down the track, which is not a good idea, or you put four cars side by side."
Beckman seems to thrive on a challenge and that's what the Four-Wide presents with two pairs of lanes being separated by a guardwall.
"You can't see the other track because of the other wall so staging is something you have to think about. It has been challenging to synchronize how you can start four cars with engines that that only have a maximum of 2 minutes and 15 seconds to run."
Once NHRA and CompuLink developed a unique starting system for the Four-Wide concept, drivers faced new challenges in championship eliminations on Sunday when two cars advanced in each four-car heat.
"Qualifying is the same as two-wide racing but not eliminations," Beckman said. "At every other NHRA event there is one winner and one loser, now two advance.
"If you smoke the tires in eliminations and know you can't catch the car next to you normally you shut off.
"But in the Four-Wide, you can finish second and move onto the next round. Because you can't see the cars in the adjacent par of lanes you don't know if either of them had bigger trouble so you have to get your car to the finish line.
"That means we have to be a little harder on parts, in theory, on Sunday than other races. Now second, technically, is the same as a win."
BECKMAN AT zMAX DRAGWAY: Wins (2), 2008 Fall, Spring 2011; runner-ups (1) Fall 2010
The fifth of 23 events on the Full Throttle tour is the most unique of the season.
zMAX is the only dragstrip with four racing lanes and each lane will be used for each of our qualifying sessions (Friday and Saturday) and championship eliminations on Sunday.
The 16-car eliminations ladder in each of the three major professional categories will match as follows: Race A (qualifiers 1, 8, 9, 16), Race B (qualifiers 4, 5, 12, 13), Race C (qualifiers 2, 7, 10, 15) and Race D (qualifiers 3, 6, 11, 14)
Lane choice for eliminations goes to the driver with the quickest E.T., then the second-quickest, and so on.
The first two drivers in each elimination heat to cross the finish line advance to the second round and final; In the final round, teams will finish in the order they cross the finish line (barring any red-light starts), with winner, runner-up and two semifinalists in that order.
FULL THROTTLE SCHEDULE:
FRIDAY: Qualifying, 2, 5 p.m.
SATURDAY: Qualifying, Noon, 3 p.m.
SUNDAY: Eliminations, Noon
Saturday: 5 p.m. (ET).
Sunday: 7 p.m. (ET).
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