I know you made a very brief stop in 2008 to Firebird to talk to Bill New, but now that you are racing here what is your impression of Firebird?

JB: I love going to new tracks and racing. Yeah, they are all straight for a quarter mile, but every track is different. The pits are laid out different, the surrounding area, the grandstands, the geography, the type of racers they attract, so I have always looked forward to getting a chance to race here, but never thought it would ever happen. I still have my car, but don’t have a trailer, and just never thought it would happen. But it’s not just the venue it is this event, the Nightfire deal, the way they bring in the funny cars, top fuel dragsters, jet cars, wheelstanders. I’ll tell you, Brian, I am still a huge fan of the sport. I am not jaded by the fact I get to run on the NHRA tour. I love sportsman racing. And when you have an event and promote a show with this much diversity, it’s no coincidence they pack the grandstands. The people love it ’cause they are fans, and I am still a fan.

It would be safe to say that you are not just a fan, you might even be a scholar or academic of the sport. That fact came out when you did color commentary Friday night during the professional session. You have a huge breadth of knowledge of the sport. Did that start at a young age?

JB: Absolutely, I think I was seven, late 1973 or early ’74 at Orange County. The first race I went to, I was hooked instantly. It was everything. What one thing about drag racing, it wasn’t one thing, it was fifteen things. It was the candy apple bright paint jobs, the names on the funny cars, pushing back from the burnouts, push starts, dry hops, being able to approach the driver just after they got out of these cars, and they were eight feet tall and made of bronze, and could say hello. But, as a kid I was shy, and it was tough to approach them. As I got older I began an appreciation of the mechanics of the racecar. Working on your own stuff and became more of a hot rodder, it opened up another love of the sport. The ability to work on your own stuff, take it to the track and measure your success there. So I am really steeped in the history of this sport, because I appreciate it not just the cars; it is the people that made this sport. And, as iconic as many of the cars are, they were made by human hands. Our sport is still young enough that a few of the first generation folks are still around, and most of the second generation’s people are still around, many are in their mid to late seventies. The fact that some still come out to the nostalgia stuff, and some are still involved with teams still blows my mind. Babe Ruth at eighty years old was not gonna come out and hit a home run; our sport is one that you can carry on and be successful to a much later age, versus any other sports.

You mentioned in your previous answer, the names of the cars and drivers. Our sport was identified with “The Snake, The Mongoo$e, The Ace -- you right now are wearing a “Hawaiian” Roland Leong shirt. You are called “Fast” Jack Beckman. Have we lost that part of the sport, which allowed the general public to know the drivers and the cars?

JB: I didn’t give myself the name Fast Jack that was done as a joke ’cause I had a Yamaha FJ at the time, and it stuck. I wonder if some of the drivers would seem egocentric if they put a nickname on their car. But I agree, I think it is something the fans can latch on to. Dale Earnhardt “The Intimidator” -- how cool was that. And I think every racecar should have a name. I think it is a neat deal for the fans too, now look they can either identify with a driver or a racecar, and that would be awesome. Often times they will identify with both. But I think it is just plain bitchin’to have a cool nickname for a driver and great name for a racecar. And, I think that at times with kids those things become iconic, and bigger than life, and stick in their heads. Big Daddy, The Snake, The Mongoo$e, those nicknames didn’t make the person but, man, did they help out with promoting.

Jim Janard (former Oakley owner) gave a free seminar years ago at Pomona and he said, “Guys this is just my two cents: we have made this (drag racing) ho-hum. There are no rivals anymore, everybody is bland out there -- blah, blah, blah my sponsors. Maybe you should mix it up a little bit. Get a neat nickname, do things that people might think are edgy. Now we need to thank the sponsors ’cause we wouldn’t have a job without them, but you can do it in a way it is exciting and informative for the fans.”

Jack, thanks for taking the time. Sounds like you’re being called for next round of Bracketter.

JB: Thank you, Brian. Tell Burk I said hello.