and Irwindale Drag Strip Honor Jack Beckman

In next month’s issue will be our in depth interview with “Fast” Jack Beckman. Jack is an interesting guy, a former sergeant in the US Air Force and a certified elevator Master Technician he now drives the Valvoline NextGen Don Schumacher Racing Dodge Charger funny car (that’s a mouthful!) in the NHRA Full Throttle series. He also teaches at the Frank Hawley Drag Racing School where he’s tutored over 7,000 students. Jack can break down the task of preparing, staging, launching and driving a drag race car like no one short of Frank Hawley himself.

Jack Beckman won the 2003 NHRA Lucas Oil Super Comp national championship in his Super Comp racer, proving his skill at both driving and crew chiefing. Not long after this accomplishment Jack was diagnosed with high grade level 3B lymphoma, a cancer that was throughout his torso. While enduring six months of chemotherapy Jack continued to teach at the school and in fact only missed a couple of races that year due to his treatment and illness. By the end of 2004 he moved up to nitro cars for the first time.

Beckman is a Southern California home boy, raised in the San Fernando Valley and currently a resident of Norco, which is close to Irwindale Drag Strip where we often test our car on Thursday nights. Chatting with Irwindale personnel on those nights we learned that the track announcer, Bob Beck, is a long time friend of Jack’s. We also discovered among employees and their families there are a lot of cancer survival stories, a topic near and dear to Jack Beckman’s heart. Jack is a spokesman for Amgen’s (the pharmaceutical company) Chemotherapy: Myths or Facts™ campaign, that aims to debunk common misconceptions associated with chemotherapy and encourages patients and caregivers to take charge of their cancer journey by speaking openly with their doctors.

The California Highway Patrol escorted Jack and his son to the starting line for his recognition ceremony at 7:45 PM. The plaque says, “The ‘Key’ to Irwindale Drag Strip Proudly Presented to JACK BECKMAN – A Great Champion on the Track…A Bigger Champion in Life!” Note the iconic Hurst Mopar pistol grip shifter.

Something you can’t clean from official biographies and campaign websites is Jack Beckman’s personality. He is a very funny guy with a wicked quick wit (groan inducing puns are the exception and quickly forgiven) and an honest, up front approach to life and people.

All of these factors are well known by the staff of and Irwindale Drag Strip. Doug Stokes, who handles PR for the track, is married to a cancer survivor and Jack is one of her heros. And they aren’t only one who respect and root for Jack Beckman. So an idea dawned in our heads, Beckman is a local hero so shouldn’t the local drag strip honor him? and Irwindale Drag Strip conspired to put together a Jack Beckman appreciation night. Nate Sheldon from Hurst shifters was brought into the conspiracy to help put together a special award for Jack. To make it more fun than just another handshake and speech affair, we decided to enter the Team MoparMax Maulin’ Magnum in the King of the Hill race that night and have Jack crew chief for her and provide feedback as he has done for thousands of others.