For the Potomac News
& Manassas Journal Messenger
Last year, Tom Beckman was the victim of so much bad luck that he had to miss the final two races because someone had broken into his trailer and stolen his tools damaging his car enough so he couldn’t race.
As a second-year driver in Mini Stocks at Old Dominion Speedway, his luck is changing. Beckman, in fact, grabbed his first win Saturday night at ODS and moved up to fifth in points. He has collected seven top fives and 12 top 10s this season.
“It was a great feeling,” said Beckman, a 34-year-old Bristow resident, referring to his first victory in the division. “I’m so excited. With everything we’ve gone through this season, to finally land [a win] is just awesome. We’ve been knocking at the door and the break just went our way and everything fell together.”
Three times this season, Beckman finished second behind the three top contenders for the division title Sean Dawson, Mike Carte and Keith Machleit. “That’s good company,” Beckman said. “If you have to finish second, those are some good guys to finish second to.”
Beckman had a run of bad luck in the last six weeks when his car had problems with a rocker arm in three straight races. He had led in several races during the season.
Then last Saturday, Beckman took the lead in turn four of the first lap and held off points leader Dawson for that elusive first win.
“Beckman’s been running good all year,” Dawson said. “But he’s just had a lot of bad luck with motor problems. When he’s been running right, he’s been fast. His time is due.”
Before the break-in last year, Beckman came up with decent runs a sixth and a seventh but never raced near the front. In the offseason, he took his car to Late Model driver Dave Moon and let him and his people work go to work.
Moon found major problems with Beckman’s chassis. The geometry was off enough that it affected the way the car turned in the corners. Moon also found a shock that had gone bad. Beckman, who does most of the work on the car, also read a great deal about how to make the car faster.
Repairing the car and learning more about it has made all the difference in Beckman’s season this year. His seat time started to pay off as well.
Someone pointed out to him that he was overdriving the car in the corners. He was driving in too hard and having to wait too long before he could get on the gas again when he came off the corners. And other drivers were taking advantage of that.
So Beckman started getting off the gas sooner as he came upon the corners. And it has paid dividends because he came up with a 10th and a win in his last two races. Beckman was leading the race in which he finished 10th before his motor starting losing power.
When he rolled into victory lane last Saturday, Beckman was so overwhelmed when he climbed out of his car still breathing hard and pumped with adrenaline that everything he had thought about saying after winning his first race just flew out of his head. So he wants to express his gratitude to his crew and to Moon and his guys for their help this season. Beckman also wanted to dedicate the victory to his mother, Becky Beckman, who passed away in March.
Beckman raced go-karts for 2 1/2 years on the dirt track of Capital City Speedway in Ashland. He won a few races and then ran in Super Mini Cups at ODS for a season before making the switch to Mini Stocks.
Prior to racing, Beckman, who grew up a stock car fan and is a fan of Mark Martin, worked on the crew of former Grand Stock driver Mark Winstead. “I learned a lot from him, just working with him and watching him,” Beckman said. “He’s a great driver.”
Beckman, who’s a Fairfax County police officer and drives a Harley Davison motorcycle in the traffic division, receives a lot of kidding about being a policeman from his fellow drivers in Mini Stocks.
“Here I am a police officer and I have this addiction to speed,” he said, with a laugh. “But it’s under control.”