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Thoughts from “Fast Jack”

By “Fast Jack” Beckman, Driver of the Infinite Hero Funny Car

As a professional drag racer, I’m often asked for things: a signature, souvenir, photo, appearance at an event, and yes, even a written article or two.  The first three, typically, are easy to accommodate; the latter two sometimes more difficult.

So, when I was contacted by Al Heisley and asked to become a contributor to NITRO GEARHEADS, I took some time to consider my answer. I’m on the road and away from home 1/3 of my life (and, more importantly, 1/3 of my children’s lives). I immerse myself interacting with them as much as possible, and plan my extracurricular activities around theirs.

My point is, I didn’t make the decision lightly to commit myself to a monthly column and all the effort and hours that will go into that. I was interested to hear what Al (and Ray Uebel) are trying to do, and I am excited about the potential of the site.

Having been given “free reign” to decide the personality of my entries, I think I just may leave it up to you readers to help steer me in as many different directions as your interests, questions, and curiosities take us.

I have a diverse background when it comes to the sport of drag racing:

I attended my first race sometime around late 1973 at Orange County International Raceway (OCIR) in Southern California, when I was seven years old. I say this to frame my experience in the sport, and I’m really, REALLY good with the history of drag racing, and enjoy being the custodian of a plethora of knowledge regarding “our” past.

I competed in the Sportsman ranks beginning in 1986, making my first pass down a quarter-mile in Lubbock, TX. (I was stationed 100 miles away at Cannon AFB in New Mexico), and I still have the timeslip that reads, “15.06 @ 93 mph”. In fact, I still have that very same 1968 El Camino in my garage! Though I hardly ever get to bracket race anymore, I still “drive the finish line” several times a year. I say this to let all of you know that I’m still a Sportsman racer, and I never will leave my bracket racing roots behind.

I quit my career as an elevator repairman to go teach full time at the Frank Hawley Drag Racing School back in 1998 and, though I rarely get an opportunity to teach since we ceased running at the Pomona location, I still work with Frank on occasion and enjoy the teaching aspect immensely.  I have instructed more than 7,000 students on the fine art of ¼- mile acceleration, and have signed licenses for many of the current stars of the sport. I say this to underscore my involvement from a very unique perspective related to drag racing.

I attend both Bakersfield “nostalgia” events each year, as well as the Nightfire Nationals in Boise, ID. I’ve spent many hours in the tower announcing at these, as well as at divisional and regional events. I say this to let all of you know that my passion isn’t limited to sitting behind the steering wheel, and I enjoy every category of vehicle that runs down the track (well, maybe not V/SA…but I digress).

The point of giving all of you my “resume” has nothing to do with narcissism. I simply want to paint a picture of what things I am versed enough in to be able to give accurate, detailed information about. Actually, perhaps I am jumping the gun slightly at this point…

I mentioned earlier that perhaps you – the reader – could provide the impetus for my future articles. I can absolutely see doing some simple “Q & A” sessions as part of my monthly contribution, and I also envision having you guys suggest various topics that will inspire their own stories. Okay…now we can officially sound the starter pistol and get to the crux of what I’d like to do, which is to provide insight, clarification, accuracy and perhaps even some education for you hard-core folks.

Of course, all of this is predicated on you, the reader, getting involved. I’m hoping that my inbox will have enough inquiries from you folks to inspire and motivate multiple articles about a litany of topics throughout my stay on Nitro Gearheads. Some of your questions may perhaps only require a short response, while other suggestions may facilitate an entire column. Really, it’s entirely up to you, and the sky is the limit…within reason.

Ask me anything about my car, crew, safety gear, procedures before, during and after a run, our support equipment, transporters, as well as our race, machine, and fabrication shops.

We can talk about race procedures: lane assignments, run order, qualifying order, points, bonus points, Countdown points, records, and disqualifications.

We can talk about the timing system: its history, evolution, setup, calibration settings, beam heights, rollout, interval timers and speed traps.

We can talk about the mechanics and systems on a modern-day nitro car: clutch (primary weight, lockup lever, timers and flow controls), fuel system, data acquisition, tire size and wheelie bar height, ignition timing curves, superchargers, aerodynamics, header angle, chassis preload, and on and on.

Perhaps you want to compare a modern “NHRA” vehicle to a “modern nostalgia” racecar to understand the performance and cost differences. Or the amount of preparation required to run them, as well as the crew requirements between rounds.

I’m actually hoping to be so inundated with requests that I struggle to fulfill them all. That would be the best “problem” to have. On the other end of the spectrum, if none of you take the time to think about something you’d like to know, write down a brief and self-explanatory e-mail, and send it to me, well…I don’t think anyone wants me to make an entire column out of my current project: putting that aforementioned ‘68 El Camino back on the street. Hey, you guys can ask questions about THAT, too, but the Al and Ray don’t want me to stray too far from their NITRO roots.

I’m going to sign off for now, with the hope that enough interest is generated amongst you and your fellow CH3NO2 addicts to provide me with enough “spark” to ignite your senses.

Stay tuned…

Submit requests by logging into “GOFASTJACK.COM”, then click on “CONTACT” at top of the page.