Photo courtesy of Don Schumacher Racing

There’s no doubt that to Mopar drag race fans, 2011’s NHRA Funny Car series was a nail biter to the very end. Two Mopar sponsored Don Schumacher Racing cars, Matt Hagan’s and Jack Beckman’s were just single digit points apart going into the next to last race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. They left there still single digits apart heading into Pomona for the Finals.

But they weren’t alone in the points battle, Cruz Pedregon was nipping at Matt and Jack’s heels only a little more than a round behind going into the Finals. Robert Hight, Mike Neff and Ron Capps were still in it too, their paths to the championship were just a little bit longer.

We arrived at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the penultimate race of the season. We wanted to know, with “Fast” Jack Beckman, fighting for the championship tooth and nail, what must the pressure be like for him?

We got to speak to Jack in his pit right by his Mopar Funny Car; part of the conversation was on video and is posted on YouTube under our account.

Two things struck us on first meeting Jack. One is that when you talk to him he holds you with a penetrating gaze, and you feel that in spite of everything going on around him, whatever he’s doing at that moment in time he’s 100% focused on. The second is his sense of humor. We spoke with him between the third and fourth rounds of qualifying and at that moment he was tied in the points chase with Hagan. But he was obviously having fun, signing autographs for fans at the velvet rope protecting the pit and was quick to joke with us both on and off camera. The impression was that he had a good perspective on this whole thing, and our chat with him confirmed it.

: You’re leading in the Funny Car points. How are you doing Jack?

Jack Beckman: (laughing): I’m leading in the funny car points, Richard, that’s a pretty good deal.

: No kidding. Would you have thought, what was it, six years ago that you were diagnosed [with lymphoma] and underwent your treatment…

JB: Yeah, you know, people always ask, they said, “Was this your dream?” I went to my first drag race at Orange County when I was 7 years old, they were push starting them back then. And I loved it, I mean it was something that caught me immediately about the smell, the sounds, the way they vibrated the ground and I did dream about it. I thought if somebody would let me drive their car down the track once, I’d have it made. I never knew I’d have twelve wins, we’d be contending for the championship and I’d get paid to do this full-time.