MADISON, Ill. – Jack Beckman knows NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series drivers can sometimes sound like pre-programmed robots.
Every driver's crew, it seems, works harder than the others. And every driver has complete faith in his or her crew, too.
"The clichés get so ad nauseum out here," Beckman said. "Listen, the people who work on the Valvoline Next Gen car do a phenomenal job, and the proof is every time we go out there, we run well. And I do have tons of confidence in them. But there are no guarantees."
The proof is in the numbers. And for one day, Beckman's Don Schumacher Racing team was indeed best, as Beckman grabbed the provisional No. 1 for the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park with a lap of 4.049 seconds at 308.85 mph.
Beckman joined fellow provisional No. 1s Antron Brown in Top Fuel, Jason Line in Pro Stock and Hector Arana Jr. in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
A nitromethane-breathing Funny Car is a recalcitrant beast, even with a qualifying streak like Beckman's. He's qualified third or better seven races in a row, including two No. 1s.
"They do crazy things sometimes," Beckman said. "We had run OK first session, and we were bumped out by the time we pulled up (to the waterbox for Q2). You know you're not going to see these conditions tomorrow, and you're thinking, 'OK, we need those points, we need that favorable spot on the ladder, we've got to get to the finish line.' But you just never know."
Beckman was seventh in the first session, but grabbed the three points for leading Q2. He edged John Force (4.060 at 308.35 mph) and Matt Hagan (4.061 at 305.42 mph) for the provisional No. 1.
"When (I see) the three guys who come up to the top end with the tow vehicle to pick me up, when we tow back to the pits to see the other six guys, that makes it all worthwhile," Beckman said.
DSR swept the provisional No. 1s in the nitro classes, as Brown put down the third-quickest run in Top Fuel history with a pass of 3.737 seconds at 326.79 mph to take the top spot in his Aaron's/Matco Tools dragster.
"That run was not the prettiest run, by far," Brown said. "When it got to the asphalt, it came up and started doing left to right, left to right, went to the inside. If it went straight and smooth, it could've been better. My shield fogged up before I hit the gas, and I could not see one thing where I was going. I was a little early on the Tree, and the car when a little left, but we managed to get her down through there.
"I took a little peak up at the scoreboard, and I saw that .73. I was in my helmet, like, 'Yeah, boy.' I felt like Flavor Flav."
Spencer Massey was second with a run of 3.752 at 326.16 mph, with David Grubnic third at 3.773 at 317.94 mph.
Line had five No.1 qualifiers in the first nine races of the seasons, but none since unveiling a 2012 Chevrolet Camaro. His last No. 1 was at Englishtown in early June.
"That was this year?" Line said jokingly.
Line's top pass Friday was 6.514 seconds at 212.53 mph in his Summit Racing Chevrolet to edge Allen Johnson and Erica Enders as the top three were separated by .005 seconds.
"Obviously, we're getting better," Line said. "We've still got a ways to go. But, yeah, it' s been so long that I can't even remember back that far. We're definitely not where we'd thought we'd be, where we'd like to be and where we should be. But all in all, a good day for both the Summit cars."
Line's teammate, Greg Anderson, ended up sixth. Johnson, the Pro Stock points leader, was second at 6.516 seconds at 212.76 mph, with Enders third at 6.519 at 211.83 mph.
Arana Jr. guided the Lucas Oil Buell to the provisional No. 1 spot in Pro Stock Motorcycle with a best lap of 6.826 seconds at 195.19 mph that was slightly better than his dad (a 6.827 at 196.56 mph from Hector Arana Sr.) and a track record.
"I've been low of the round each time today," Arana Jr. said. "It's really great, but the most important thing is to be consistent and be that good on race day. We're going to work on getting rid of all those silly mistakes so we can go rounds."