(AP) — Jack Beckman took the Funny Car standings lead with two event left, racing to his third career victory at Firebird International Raceway on Sunday in the NHRA Arizona Nationals.
Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won the fourth of six races in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, the six-race playoffs.
Beckman powered his Dodge Charger to a 4.354-second run at 278.29 mph in the final round to beat Don Schumacher Racing teammate Johnny Gray. The victory, Beckman's second in a row in Phoenix and the 12th of his career, moved him into the points lead for the first time in his career.
"It's hard to digest everything that happened here today," Beckman said. "I've always said I want to control our destiny on the racetrack, but being three rounds behind with 12 left, (Mike) Neff and (Matt) Hagan had to lose relatively early to put us back in the hunt, and you can never bet on that because those are two phenomenal teams. For everything to happen the way it happened today, I'm not so gratified that I'm the points leader, I'm gratified that we got ourselves back into the championship hunt. It's going to be interesting."
Hagan, Beckman's teammate and the points leader entering the event, moved into the second spot in the standings with his second-round finish, five points out of the lead. Regular-season points leader Neff moved to the third spot in the standings with his first-round loss to John Force Racing teammate Robert Hight.
Defending Top Fuel world champion Dixon held off Antron Brown in the final round for his second win of the season. Dixon drove his dragster to a 3.955 at 307.37 run en route to his third win in five final-round appearances at Firebird. The win also moved Dixon to the second spot in the standings, 20 points behind Brown.
Though Brown was unable to hold on for the race win, his final-round appearance moved him into the points lead while teammate Spencer Massey dropped to third in the standings after failing to qualify for the event. Regular-season points leader Del Worsham is fourth in the standings after his second-round appearance.
In Pro Stock, rookie Nobile held off fellow Dodge driver Allen Johnson in the final round to secure his third race win of the season. Nobile powered his Dodge Avenger to a 6.678 at 208.30 and posted a reaction time of 0.009 to beat Johnson on a holeshot. The win moved Nobile up to the third spot in the point standings.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Arana raced to his second consecutive win and third of the season, posting a perfect reaction time of 0.000 in the final round. Arana powered his Buell to a 6.884 at 194.30 past points leader Eddie Krawiec to collect the win in his third straight final-round appearance. With the win, Arana sits 10 points behind leader Krawiec.