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TV Racers: Jon Beekhuis

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TV Racers is the latest recurring feature to be introduced on the ARA website!  TV Racers will review the racing careers of drivers currently serving as racing television commentators.  Our first subject is Jon Beekhuis, a member of the VERSUS IRL broadcast team.

Jon Beekhuis won two major “feeder” series championship titles, the 1986 SCCA Formula Russell Pro Series championship and the 1988 American Racing Series (later known as Indy Lights) championship.

Jon’s early professional efforts began in the 1980 BRDC British Esso Formula Ford 1600 Championship series.  Beekhuis drove a Royale RP26 and won the first race of the season, on March 2 at Silverstone!  Thereafter, Beekhuis did not win any of the remaining sixteen races of the season, as eventual champion Jim Walsh, another Royale RP26 driver, dominated the season with seven wins including six consecutive in races three through eight!  Two-time racewinner David Wheeler was second in points.  Beekhuis finished fourth in the final point standings.

Jon moved up to the British Formula 3 Championship series in 1981.  Driving for the works Argo team, Anglia Cars, Beekhuis’ ride was the new Argo JM8 powered by Toyota.  While the predecessor chassis, the JM6, had been a success in 1980, the Argo was not to be the car to have in 1981!  As noted at this F3 history website, “the car was a total disaster.”  Ralt-Toyotas were not disasters, however, and won nineteen of the twenty 1981 series race!

In the 1981 season opener March 1 at Silverstone, Beekhuis posted his best qualification of the year, ninth, and finished twelfth, one lap down.  Eventual 1981 champion and future F1 driver Jonathan Palmer won the race.  The team skipped the March 8 race at Thruxton, also won by Palmer.  On March 29 at Silverstone, Beekhuis qualified only eighteenth but finished eleventh, on the lead lap.  Palmer won again, and Beekhuis was the first Argo finisher.  On April 12 at Mallory Park, Jon qualified fifteenth and cracked the top ten, finishing ninth, on the lead lap.  Palmer posted his fourth consecutive 1981 victory, and Beekhuis was again the first Argo to finish.  Thruxton on April 20 saw Beekhuis start fifteenth and finish thirteenth, on the lead lap, as Thierry Tassin ended Palmer’s streak by winning in his Ralt-Toyota.  Tassin would eventually finish second in the 1981 championship.  The May 4 race at Thruxton produced a retirement for Beekhuis; he started seventeenth but engine overheating ended his race two laps short of the finish.  Mike White won in a March-Alfa Romeo, scoring the season’s only non-Ralt, non-Toyota victory.  An overheating engine also ended Beekhuis’ next race, the May 10 Snetterton event, as he completed only nine of twenty-five laps after again starting seventeenth.  Future sports car star James Weaver won the event.

The Anglia Cars teamed switch to 1980’s car, an Argo JM6, for the next race at Silverstone on May 25.  Beekhuis finished thirteenth, on the lead lap, after starting tenth, and was the leading Argo finisher.  Tassin won the race.  On June 14 at Cadwell Park, Beekhuis qualified the JM6 eleventh and tied his best 1981 finish with a ninth, on the lead lap.  Jonathan Palmer won, and again Beekhuis was the leading Argo finisher.  Beekhuis started twenty-sixth on June 21 at Silverstone but finished only eighteenth, albeit on the lead lap.  That race was the end for the Anglia Cars effort and Beekhuis’ season as the Argo effort was clearly uncompetitive.

Following his miserable luck in 1981, Beekhuis turned his sights to the SCCA’s Pro Super Vee season in 1982 driving an Argo JM12 for Bob Garretson.  He qualified tenth for the season-opening March 28 Phoenix oval race but fuel injection problems parked his car after twenty-one laps, placing him fifteenth.  The race was won by Michael Andretti.  Beekhuis did not compete in the next race (Charlotte, also won by Michael Andretti).  Jon returned to the series for the June 5 Detroit street race, starting thirteenth and finishing twelfth, one lap down.  Jerrill Rice won the race.  On the oval at Milwaukee on June 13, Beekhuis qualified an excellent fifth and finished seventh, just one lap down, in a race won by Ed Pimm.  Unfortunately, Milwaukee marked the end of his Super Vee season, and Jon ranked only twenty-fifth in 1982 Super Vee points.

In 1983 Jon Beekhuis contested two races in the IMSA International Sedan series driving a Ford Escort in the new ProFormance class.  On July 24 at Sears Point the car retired but on November 27 at Daytona Jon finished eleventh overall and sixth in class.

Beekhuis drove the Escort twice in 1984 and the February 4 season-opening Daytona 3 Hours produced a ProFormance class victory!  Jon teamed with Craig Ross to finish fourth overall and win the ProFormance class.  An excellent photo of the car appears on the Pbase website.

The Escort retired from the April 7, 1984 Road Atlanta 3 Hours.  Beekhuis ranked twenty-first in 1984 IMSA International Sedan points.

Beekhuis resumed his pro open wheel racing career on March 31, 1985 in the Riverside Formula Russell Pro race.  Jon qualified second and finished fifth, on the lead lap, in his only 1985 start in the series.  He then competed in the 1985 Nor-Am Pro Formula Ford series driving a Reynard 85FF.  Jon qualified third for the May 5 Laguna Seca race but contact with Bob Lesnett retired his car after eight laps.  He then qualified fifth for the June 2 Sears Point race and finished third; Jimmy Vasser won the race.  At Sears Point on August 8 he started eighth and finished seventh.  After qualifying fifteenth for the September 29 race at Sears Point he did not start.  Beekhuis qualified sixth and finished sixth at Laguna Seca on October 6.  Jon finished the 1985 Nor-Am season seventh in points, one position behind future CART star Jimmy Vasser.

Beekhuis “broke through” in 1986 with his first series title, winning the SCCA Formula Russell Pro Championship driving for Norm Turley’s P.I.G. team.  His year began well as he won the pole for the April 6 season opener on the Phoenix oval.  He then led lap one and laps five through seven before posting his only non-Top Five finish of the season, placing eighteenth, one lap down as former series champion Mark Wolocatiuk won the race.  Jon started third at Long Beach on April 13 and finished second by only 2.16 seconds to Jeff Krosnoff.  Beekhuis won the pole for the May 2 Laguna Seca race and led the 25-lap race “flag to flag” to win by 3.666 seconds over Johnny O’Connell.  Beekhuis was the Fast Qualifier for the May 18 Riverside race but started from the rear, set Fast Lap, and took the lead on lap nineteen of the twenty-lap race, only for Wolocatiuk to pass him on the final lap and win by 0.3 second!  On June 1 at Riverside Jon started fourth and finished fifth with Ken Thwaits winning and Krosnoff, O’Connell, and Wolocatiuk 2-3-4.

Then Beekhuis went on a tear, finishing either first or second in the final six races of the season!  He won the pole at Sears Point on August 3, set Fast Lap, and led laps 18 and 20 of the twenty-lap race to beat O’Connell.  On the street circuit in Tacoma on August 9 he started third and finished second only 0.33 second behind Wolocatiuk.  Beekhuis then won the pole for the September 28 Seasr Point race and led the final thirteen laps (8-20) to win by 1.11 seconds over Krosnoff.  After qualifying third for the October 11 Laguna Seca race, Beekhuis led the final four laps (22-25) to again beat Krosnoff, this time by 1.342 seconds.  Jon completed a three-race win streak with his victory on the Phoenix oval on October 18.  He qualified second, led the first lap, and finished second on the track to Jeff Krosnoff, but Krosnoff was disqualified for an illegal engine and Beekhuis took the victory by 0.21 second over O’Connell.  In the season finale on November 16 at Riverside, Beekhuis won the pole and led the first lap before Wolocatiuk and Krosnoff traded the lead for the remaining nineteen laps, with Wolocatiuk winning by 0.124 second over Beekhuis!

All told, Beekhuis led the eleven-race 1986 SCCA Formula Russell Pro Series season in wins with five (to Wolocatiuk’s four) and poles with six (to three for Krosnoff).  Jon won the title with 539 points to 494 for Wolocatiuk and 317 for O’Connell.

Jon Beekhuis moved up to the SCCA Formula Atlantic West series in 1987, driving a Ralt RT4/87-Cosworth Ford.  He began the season on May 3 at Laguna Seca by storming from thirtieth starting position and setting Fast Lap en route to a fourth-place finish.  On the Phoenix road course May 17 Jon started fourth and finished seventh.  After starting fifteenth on May 31 at Sears Point Beekhuis finished fifth.  He then started fifth and finished fifth at Portland on June 13.  July 5 at Spokane saw him start fourteenth but rise to sixth at the finish.  At Sears Point on August 2 Beekhuis started eighth and finished fifth.  The Tacoma street circuit on August 9 produced a fifth-place finish from a sixth-place start.  Jon started fourth (tying his season-best) in the August 23 Westwood race and finished sixth.  Beekhuis posted identical results in the September 13 Portland and October 10 Laguna Seca races, starting sixth and finishing eighth in each race.  In the first ten races of the season, Beekhuis posted five Top Five finishes with a best of fourth in the season-opener at Laguna Seca, and ten top eight finishes for an average finish of 5.9 from an average start of 9.8.  The season ended poorly on November 1 at Memphis Motorsports Park in the combined East/West event, for although Beekhuis started seventh an electrical fire retired his car after ten (of 56) laps, placing him thirty-seventh!

While consistent throughout the season, Beekhuis was swimming against the tide, for Johnny O’Connell and Dean Hall each won four races and finished 1-2 in the championship.  Parker Johnstone, winless like Beekhuis, finished third in points with Beekhuis fourth.

Beekhuis moved up to the American Racing Series in 1988.  Later known as Indy Lights, the ARS was the logical steppingstone to CART and the series for spec Wildcat-Buicks featured ovals, road courses, and street circuits.  Beekhuis drove for Norm Turley’s P.I.G. team and won the 1988 title.

The season began poorly on the Phoenix oval April 9.  Beekhuis qualified fourth but was eliminated on the first lap in an accident, placing sixteenth!  Jon qualified fourth again, this time for the June 4 Milwaukee race, but this time finished fourth, one lap down.  The road course at Portland on June 19 saw Beekhuis start third and finish third, on the lead lap.  He then qualified second for the July 3 Cleveland temporary airfield circuit race and finished fourth, on the lead lap.  Beekhuis started third on the Toronto street circuit July 17 and finished fourth.  Jon’s first ARS victory came on July 24 on the parking lot temporary circuit at New Jersey’s Meadowlands sports complex.  Beekhuis won “flag to flag” from the pole over Dave Simpson!

Jon then qualified second for the Pocono oval 100-miler and led the first two laps before handling woes retired his car, placing him twelfth.

As in his 1986 SCCA Formula Russell Pro title season, Beekhuis won the 1988 ARS title with a “finishing kick.”  Beekhuis posted three consecutive top two finishes and a season-ending fifth!  Beekhuis won the pole for the September 4 Mid-Ohio round, led the first two laps and the final twenty to win by 0.662 second over Tommy Byrne.  He then started third and finished second on September 11 at Road America, losing to Juan Manuel Fangio II by 4.5 seconds.  Jon then started third in the October 16 Laguna Seca round but finished second by 3.318 seconds to Tommy Byrne.  Beekhuis completed the season by starting sixth and finishing fifth in the November 6 Tamiami Park race.

The twelve-race 1988 ARS season was highly competitive; seven drivers scored race victories, with Tommy Byrne leading with three, although two came in the final two races of the season!  Champion Beekhuis, Fangio, and Calvin Fish each won two races, with Michael Greenfield, Dave Simpson, and Paul Tracy taking one win apiece.  Beekhuis won the title with 147 points, only three more than the fast-closing Tommy Byrne’s 144.  Dave Simpson ranked third with 122, followed by Fish with 113, and Fangio with 105.

The 1988 ARS title did not translate to a full-time CART ride for Beekhuis in 1989.  Jon competed in only three races for Bettenhausen Racing in a Lola 87-Ford.  Beekhuis qualified eighteenth for the July 23 Toronto street race and finished thirteenth, seven laps down.  He qualified twenty-seventh for the September 10 Raod America race but electrical problems retired his car after ten (of 50) laps, placing twenty-fourth.  Another twenty-seventh place start, this time in the October 15 Laguna Seca race, ended in retirement after sixty-two (of 84) laps due to gearbox failure, placing Jon fifteenth.

For 1990, the Norm Turley P.I.G. team provided Beekhuis with a Lola 88-Judd.  Jon qualified eleventh for the April 22 Long Beach race and finished sixteenth, five laps down.  On the Detroit street circuit June 17 Beekhuis started nineteenth but retired after 42 (of 62) laps with clutch failure, placing eighteenth.  The July 22 Toronto street race saw Beekhuis equal his career-best Indycar start of eleventh but engine failure parked his car after eighteen (of 94) laps, placing him twenty-fifth.

For the August 5 Michigan 500, Beekhuis switched to the Dick Hammond Lola 89-Ford.  The race produced his career-best Indycar result, although it was not a “finish.”  Jon qualified sixteenth and completed 221 laps (of 250) before his Ford engine failed, placing him eighth.

Beekhuis returned to Turley’s team for his remaining 1990 races, this time in a Lola 89-Judd.  The August 26 Denver street race saw him start fifteenth but retire after 28 (of 80) laps due to an accident.  He started twenty-first for the September 2 Vancouver street race and retired after 50 (of 97) laps with suspension problems, placing twenty-first.  Beekhuis started thirteenth in the September 16 Mid-Ohio round but handling problems parked his car after 60 (of 89) laps, placing him twenty-fourth.  An eighteenth-place start in the September 23 Road America race yielded an eleventh-place finish, only one lap down.  Beekhuis qualified thirteenth for the October 21 Laguna Seca round but did not start due to a turbo failure.  Beekhuis ended the 1990 CART season ranked twenty-first in points.

Beekhuis had only one CART race opportunity in 1991, driving a Derrick Walker Lola 90-Ford DFS in an effort to compete in the August 4 Michigan 500.  Jon qualified fourteenth but did not start after a practice wreck.

In 1992, Jon drove for A.J. Foyt in the July 19 Toronto street race.  Piloting a Lola 91-Chevrolet, Beekhuis qualified twenty-first but retired after 64 (of 103) laps with a broken wing mount.  His final Indycar start came in the August 2, 1992 Michigan 500.  Beekhuis drove Derrick Walker’s Lola 91-Chevrolet, starting twentieth but retiring after only 33 laps (of 250) with clutch failure, placing twenty-first.

Jon Beekhuis Race Victories

DATE SANCTION SERIES RACE CAR
03/02/80 BRDC Esso FF1600 Silverstone Royale RP26-Ford
02/04/84 IMSA International Sedan ProFormance Daytona 3 Hours Ford Escort
05/02/86 SCCA Formula Russell Mazda Pro Laguna Seca Russell-Mazda
08/03/86 SCCA Formula Russell Mazda Pro Sears Point Russell-Mazda
09/28/86 SCCA Formula Russell Mazda Pro Sears Point Russell-Mazda
10/11/86 SCCA Formula Russell Mazda Pro Laguna Seca Russell-Mazda
10/18/86 SCCA Formula Russell Mazda Pro Phoenix Russell-Mazda
07/24/88 CART Indy Lights Meadowlands Wildcat-Buick
09/04/88 CART Indy Lights Mid-Ohio Wildcat-Buick

Jon Beekhuis Driver Point Standings

Jon Beekhuis British Formula 3

Jon Beekhuis CART Indy Lights

Jon Beekhuis Formula Russell Mazda Pro

Jon Beekhuis IMSA International Sedan

Jon Beekhuis Indycar

Jon Beekhuis NORAM Pro Formula Ford

Jon Beekhuis SCCA Formula Atlantic West

Jon Beekhuis SCCA Pro Super Vee

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