LAS VEGAS (April 5, 2009) – Ron Capps raced the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Funny Car into his third victory of the season in five events at NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and continued to rack up points as the class leader. He is now 106 points ahead of his DSR teammate Matt Hagan, whom he defeated in the final.
Without lane choice for the final stanza and facing NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year contender Hagan in his first career final round, Capps put an exclamation point on the team's determination to win every round of every event and eventually Capps' first Funny Car championship.
En route to his 28th career win in his 57th final round, Capps dismissed Brian Thiel, John Force Racing's Mike Neff and another JFR driver, Robert Hight, in the semifinal before facing off against his teammate.
Capps launched with only a slight edge over Hagan but led all the way to the finish line, posting a stout 4.182-second elapsed time at 297.81 mph in the heat of the day to Hagan's 4.335/248.89.
"I was asked several times by the media what was wrong," said Capps, referring to his two first-round losses of the season following victories in the fist two events, "and I just never worried. Ace (crew chief Ed McCulloch) needed to get in his comfort zone. You'll find a lot of teams seemed like they may be struggling here the last few races with [only] four test dates [allowed by the NHRA] for the whole year. There's a lot of teams including us testing things that you have to try in qualifying once you get in the show and even race day, believe it or not.
"It's tough to gauge [what] people are actually doing in their pit area. For Ace, he was trying things. Don's a great owner. He comes in and pats him on the butt and says, ‘Keep doing what you're doing.’ And that's big.
"We won that first round with a 4.21. It wasn't that good. Then we got put over in the right lane and everybody thought we were doomed. And so did I. And it went right down there.
"It seems like when we don't have lane choice and Ace has his back against the wall a little bit...he comes out swinging. And it's such a great race car to drive. And even having no lane choice in the final and beating Robert Hight in the right lane, Ace wanted the right lane. So, (Hagan's crew chief) Tommy DeLago rolled up there and he'd been in the left lane and he chose the left lane. I thought this was cool. We're going to stage and let the cars do all the talking and lucky enough we got the win."
McCulloch was beaming in the winner's circle. "I think it was a good day in Las Vegas,” he said. “If we had been on the crap table we would have gone home with a lot of money," he said. “We had some issues. I don't have to tell anybody the last couple of races haven't been good. We know they weren't good, but we had some things going on. And last night I said to myself, I know what it is I need to do today and let's go do it. So it worked out good.
"As for lane choice, a lot of guys thought the left lane is where they wanted to go, but there's a bigger bump in the left lane than there is in the right and we figured since the car's really not handling quite as good as we want it to be, if we can keep Ron out of the bumps the better off he is, so as a rule we chose to stay in the right lane."
With Tony Schumacher's win today, DSR teams now lead the point standings in the Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock Motorcycle classes. "I'm tremendously ecstatic," said team owner Schumacher. "It was great to have Ron win today, to have Tony win today, [and] have Matt Hagan get to the final, a rookie like that. Tommy DeLago is doing a great job over there. All my Funny Cars are doing a great job, the dragsters are all doing a great job, and we're number one in the points with the Pro Stock Motorcycle also.
"Ron and Tony are really stepping this program up. They're doing one great, great job."
Next up is the NHRA Southern Nationals in Commerce, Ga., April 17-19.
UNOFFICIAL FUNNY CAR POINT STANDINGS, AFTER FIVE EVENTS:
1. Ron Capps, 408 (winner today)
2. Matt Hagan, 302 (runner-up today)
3. Del Worsham, 296
4. Ashley Force Hood, 296
5. Tony Pedregon, 290
6. Bob Tasca, 289
7. Jack Beckman, 282
8. Robert Hight, 273
9. John Force, 253
10. Mike Neff, 252