TOPEKA, Kan. --
As he prepares to return to the scenic track in Kansas' capital city with a reputation for producing great performances for the 25th annual NHRA Kansas Nationals, May 17-19, Beckman and the MTS Mail for Wounded Warriors/Valvoline Funny Car are optimistic they'll get back to their championship form in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
"When we get out there on the track, we remind ourselves we're good," Beckman said. "Topeka is what helped adjust our attitudes last year. Much like the stock market, there's no guarantee you're going to win in drag racing. It's always a fresh start when you roll in, but it's nice to go back to a track like Topeka where I have stood in the Winner's Circle before."
Beckman will join fellow defending event winners David Grubnic (Top Fuel) and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) at the eighth event in the 24-race season. The race will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD and will feature competition in the Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock categories.
"Right now, I would like to get the first trophy out of the way," Beckman said. "We currently have not been performing at the consistent level as we expect. We've got to figure out quickness and consistency. It's been tough in our lane the last few races, but we feel incredibly fortunate for our team. We have high expectations and know we are not far from those goals and returning to the Winner's Circle this season."
Prior to Topeka last season, Beckman faced some major hurdles including switching cars and teams with teammate Capps and posting one DNQ. He rallied by the Countdown to the Championship playoffs and ended his title campaign with three victories in four final rounds and four No. 1 qualifying positions. In 2013, Beckman has only made it to one semifinal round and is seventh in the points standings.
"Last season heading to Topeka we faced a lot of challenges," Beckman said. "It was the third race with a new car and a new crew. Our overall attitude was not incredibly optimistic. It felt like we were bringing a pistol to machine gun race. We were able to prevail in the final round to win with a holeshot. Topeka set the tone for our championship run and I'm very optimistic about contending for another championship this new Mello Yello season."
This former U.S. Air Force sergeant will have to bring out all of his troops to face a tough lineup of competitors including current points leader Cruz Pedregon, a four-time winner at the track. Two-time Topeka winner Robert Hight, sophomore-sensation Courtney Force, and NAPA Dodge driver Capps, a three-time Topeka winner, are also among the pre-race favorites.
In Top Fuel, defending champ Grubnic will try to add a third victory at the Topeka event. He will be challenged by series points leader Tony Schumacher, defending world champ Antron Brown, last season's runner-up Spencer Massey, Morgan Lucas, Doug Kalitta and Brandon Bernstein, among others.
The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series also will thrill the crowds during the weekend with intense side-by-side competition.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers because every ticket is an exclusive pit pass, allowing them to see firsthand the highly skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds. Spectators also won't want to miss the popular interactive NHRA Nitro Alley and the NHRA Manufacturers Midway.
To kick off the Kansas Nationals, fans will get a sneak preview of the event at the annual Speed Fest on Thursday, May 16, noon to 7 p.m. in the heart of Topeka, on 8th Avenue and Kansas Avenue. This free event provides fans the opportunity to see some amazing cars on display and meet some of the biggest NHRA stars for autographs including Robert Hight, Brandon Bernstein, Shawn Langdon, Morgan Lucas, Allen Johnson, and Erica Enders-Stevens to name a few. Autograph sessions will be held from 6-7 p.m.
NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will begin on Friday, May 17, with sessions at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, May 18, at 12:15 and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 19.
To purchase tickets, please call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Children 12 and younger will be admitted free into general admission areas at the NHRA Kansas Nationals when accompanied by a paid adult. Tickets are also available online at www.NHRATIX.com. For more information about NHRA, please visit www.NHRA.com.
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