BRAINERD, Minn. (Aug. 16, 2009) – Ron Capps reached his seventh Funny Car final round today of the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, and the 61st of is career, bowing out to Funny Car class points leader Tony Pedregon in the money round. Capps remains in second, and is now 28 points behind, with two races remaining before the Countdown to 1 playoffs begin following the U.S. Nationals on Labor Day weekend.
Driving the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge, Capps has already clinched a berth in the playoffs, but he's aiming to earn the 20 bonus points awarded the leader going into the Countdown.
After qualifying No. 2 on Saturday and enduring another lengthy rain delay today, Capps first eliminated Tim Wilkerson with the event's lowest elapsed time of 4.115 seconds, then bumped out Bob Tasca in the second round, with another stout run of 4.163 seconds. In the semifinals he faced 14-time champion John Force. Force had the edge at the starting lights, but both cars lost traction and performed a spectacular pedalfest for the fans, with Capps recovering first to take the win with a 5.281/213.91 pass to Force's 5.859/154.19.
That lost him lane choice for the final around against Pedregon, resulting in an early loss of traction, which slowed him to a losing 6.613/99.35, while Pedregon cruised to the victory with a 4.149/295.59.
"It was a pretty grueling weekend," said Capps. "Today seemed like a whole weekend in itself. For today, I don't think the crew chiefs had more adverse conditions thrown at them from first round to the final: raining, having to wait the rain out, finally getting to run, and the sun coming out, the humidity coming up. It was a very up-and-down day.
"I'm proud of Ace (crew chief Ed McCulloch) and the NAPA guys. We weren't really happy with the first run on Friday, but Ace was trying something a little bit out of the box. So, to finally make that 4.16 run that put us No. 1 at that time was a great run. And so we felt very comfortable. We lost the pole position to Mike Neff, but we still feel like we have a great car.
"We're having fun right now. It's a lot of fun to be able to worry about trying to get the points lead back. We want the 20-point bonus, of course, going into the Countdown. But it's fun to be racy again and battle for these points right now. And it's just a precursor to the Countdown and it's a good time right now to start peaking.
"We've had such a great year already, that I don't see this team letting up. These NAPA guys put a great car underneath me all day and we got lucky getting by Force with the pedal job, and we lost lane choice and that might have cost us the final round.
"For the final, they had us pulled up there and they had us wait quite a while to run the Sportsman classes. The sun started going down and it was hard to see the Christmas Tree because the sun was right behind us.
"We liked that right lane. We ran low ET of the first round in the right lane and the car slowed down a little bit and we lost lane choice to Force, and that put us in the left lane. But we really wanted to keep the right lane all day.
"It was definitely the lane of choice for the Funny Cars. And that might have been the difference. It tried to make it through the transition period with the clutch. To be honest with you, Ace has been trying to pull power out of this NAPA car from the time we got here. And the motor is so happy making so much power now that it's neat that he's having to pull power back, because when we do go to tracks with cool conditions later in the Countdown, we have a car that's making so much power. It's going to be a lot of fun to drive."
Next up is the 25th annual NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa., Aug. 14-16.
UNOFFICIAL FUNNY CAR POINT STANDINGS, AFTER 16 OF 24 EVENTS:
1. Tony Pedregon, 1215 (winner today)
2. Ron Capps, 1187 (runner-up today)
3. Ashley Force Hood, 1090
4. Jack Beckman, 960
5. Tim Wilkerson, 950
6. Bob Tasca III, 894
7. Del Worsham, 877
8. John Force, 846
9. Mike Neff, 778
10. Cruz Pedregon, 768
11. Matt Hagan, 738
12. Robert Hight, 698