POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 10, 2009) -After five days of rain, which included one qualifying session on Saturday and the completion of only the first round of eliminations on Sunday, Ron Capps emerged as the Funny Car victor at the NHRA Winternationals today, Tuesday.
On Sunday, No. 13 qualifier Capps dismissed 14-time Funny Car champion John Force, using the quickest pass of the round to do so (4.125/304.67). Two days later, he disposed of Bob Tasca III with a 4.088/304.80 (also quickest of the round), Robert Hight with a sizzling 4.054/305.56 (quickest of eliminations) and finally Jim Head in the money round with a solid 4.154/296.96.
Capps and his crew chief Ed "Ace" McCulloch have served notice that they are here to win their first NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car championship this year.
Capps, of Carlsbad, Calif., drove the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Funny Car to his first win since the 2007 event at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill., the 25th of his career in that class (he has one Top Fuel victory) in his 55th career final round.
"It was brutal," Capps said of the long rain delay. "After they called it on Monday, the NAPA guys and I went go-karting and I took all the crew guys out to dinner. Today didn't seem like Tuesday, it seemed like Thursday."
Tuesday also brought with it warmer temperatures (64 degrees), some sun and dry and nearly-perfect conditions.
"In the final, it actually dropped a magneto about a second and a half into the run and then it picked back up later in the run," said Capps. "I told Ace it was pretty impressive to still run what it ran in the final, looking at the computer and what it did.
"We did what we had to do. We ran what we had to run to win each confrontation. Of course, the first round was huge, beating Force and having to pedal it, in those (cold and humid) weather conditions. It was dicey.
"Running Robert Hight in the semifinals was epic because any time you're running those guys we know it's going to be a shootout and we knew we'd better bring everything we got up to the starting line. So, to go 4.05 in the middle of the day like we did was just a great run by Ace.
"Obviously, going in the final round I was thinking of Seattle last year (loss to Tony Bartone). You just can't count these trophies until you actually see the win light on. So, it was such a relief, especially for the NAPA people.
"In the off season I've said time and time again we need to concentrate on winning rounds and races rather than the Countdown. Let's worry about that down the road. So, it was good to get the year started off even though we were there until Tuesday. It's a great feeling. "Like any good team, and any good team leader, Ace looked at what we needed to work on from last year, and we really needed to work on our qualifying and we needed to run better when the conditions allowed us to, when the conditions were cooler.
"Obviously, we saw cool conditions. In fact, we saw that most of the teams didn't have any data in their books from weather conditions this good. Ace has got a whole new look to this tune-up and it's neat to be able to go up there and know that we can run with any team on the grounds.
"It was emotional. Usually dragsters run right after us in the final, and they ran in front of us today. To see Doug Kalitta win after everything he and his team and family went through with Scott Kalitta last year, I was fighting back some tears and it was great. Once we started the car and were backing up from the burnout and realizing it was Tuesday I looked up at the grandstands and it was great seeing how many people came out to watch us.
"Jim Head is not a guy you can take lightly. I knew something was wrong with the car. It wasn't running as good as it had earlier in the day. So I was constantly looking out my left side window and I just never heard or saw him. And once I pulled the parachutes I looked over at the guardrail and saw my win light on. It was such a relief.
"It's huge to win for NAPA. NAPA has been so good not to just our team but in how they try to elevate the sport of drag racing. They are so happy with our sport and our fans. We really wanted to give them back a win and soon. And you have to remember, we ran 4.07 in the final round last year at the end of the year in Pomona. Didn't get the win, didn't get the trophy, but I knew then that Ace was on to something, so it was no surprise to me that we ran the 4.05 in the semis. In the back of my mind in every single run I was hoping we could keep going to give NAPA that phone call at the end of the day that we finally got the win.
"I owe it to everybody up there at NAPA and their customers. We had over 250 people here each day in the hospitality area (on the weekend), and the support is great, but to give back a win really makes you feel good."
Said Ed "Ace" McCulloch: "It was an endurance race, but we prevailed.
"We ended up the year here last time in Pomona running pretty good. We redid a little bit of stuff, we had a good test session in Florida, we had some problems in Phoenix, but we bounced back. Realistically, in the final, we were pretty fortunate. It slowed down to a 4.15 but at one second we lost the ignition in one mag, so it ran down there on one magneto.
"You have to have a luck bank. And you draw from the luck bank. We put a lot in the bank last year. We didn't get any lucky breaks, we didn't get much out of there, so we drew a little bit out of the luck bank in this first race."
Needless to say, Capps leads the Funny Car point standings after one event. Next up is the 25th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird Raceway in Chandler, Ariz., Feb. 20-22 .