Jack Beckman owns 15 NHRA Mello Yello Series Wally trophies and none are more unique than the one he earned at the most unique event in drag racing. Beckman won the second annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals Funny Car title in 2011 at zMAX Dragway near Charlotte, the world’s only four-lane dragstrip.
Racing at the track’s spring event, which is this weekend, features heats of four drivers in two pair of lanes separated by a center dividing wall. Four drivers contend in each of four qualifying sessions to race in Sunday’s 16-car elimination bracket again in four-car heats with the first two crossing the finish line advancing to the next round.
“I like it. I liked it before I won it,” he said. “It’s something completely different for the fans. You get the same cars but racing in a different format. When friends and fans tell me they want to go to a different race I always tell them go to the Four-Wide because it’s at a world-class track and an event you’ll never see anywhere else.
“I love it. They used to do this in the ’60s but on wide two-lane tracks without a center wall separating the two pairs of Funny Cars.”
The four-car format, however, presents elements drivers experience once during the 24-race series.
“The staging procedure is completely different so you have to brush aside everything you’ve been doing to stage the car in your career, study up on the Four-Wide procedures, practice it, implement it, hope you win and then forget all about for 11½ months.
“The two big differences to the Four-Wide is staging the cars and then in Sunday’s eliminations when second place advances so you can’t ever give up. You might clearly be getting beaten if you’re smoking the tires by the car next to you but you don’t know if the pair of cars in the other lanes are having bigger problems than you are. You might have to pedal it eight times to get to the finish line.
“It adds another layer of potential harm to our 10,000-horsepower race cars. And it’s the only race where you can be in the final round and finish worse than a runner-up.”
Jack’s Valvoline MaxLife Dodge Charger R/T team has advanced to the quarterfinals in each of the past three events. Although he starts the Four-Wide ranked ninth in points he is only 39 points outside of fourth.
(Photos courtesy NHRA/National Dragster)