Ron Capps held on to second place in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Funny Car point standings heading into the Countdown to 1 playoffs, despite exiting early at the 55th annual U.S. Nationals at Raceway Park at Indianapolis.

Driving the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Funny Car, Capps faced off against Cruz Pedregon in the opening stanza, with an opportunity to help his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Matt Hagan, who had just lost the first round, make it into the top 10 for the playoffs, which begin at the next event in Charlotte.

Without lane choice as the No. 13 qualifier, Capps was simply outrun in a straight side-by-side contest by No. 4 qualifier Pedregon, who claimed the win with a 4.164-second elapsed time at 305.36 mph to Capps' 4.178/301.94. With that, and Robert Hight’s first-round victory, Hagan was out of the Countdown.

"Every year you come here to this historic event and you go through all the hype of the pre-race festivities, acknowledging the event's history, all the stuff that goes along with being here at the U.S. Nationals, and it raises every sense in your body," said Capps, who has never won this event.

"You want to win this race, so it seems a little more important when you're up there, even though every round is important. But, the fact is, we just got a little behind in qualifying because of some gremlins. And it happens time to time. It's still Indy, but it's good to get them worked out before they start the Countdown in Charlotte (for the final six events of the year).

"Unfortunately, we had a fuel line that burst on Saturday night's qualifying run. We could easily have moved way up in the qualifying order if it hadn't happened. It wasn't an error by any of the guys on the crew or the way that the guys put the car together. Time and time again, the NAPA crew puts a great car underneath me and gives Ace (crew chief Ed McCulloch) a great car to go up and tune.

"For the conditions today, we thought we were going to be able to run a 4.10 or .11. Ace is looking at the computer trying to figure out why it slowed down.

"Right now a lot of teams are waking up a little bit before the Countdown starts, and just in time," he added. "And it's time for us to get back the form that we had earlier in the year and qualifying up front. And we will. It was just unfortunate that we got behind a little bit.

"It was a gut check on Sunday to get in on the last qualifying round. That tells me a lot about our team. They never lost focus and we went up there and run a 4.15 right in the heat of the day (to make it into the 16-car field for Monday’s eliminations).

"We'll take this and find out why it slowed down and go to Charlotte. We know it's going to be warm, it's going to be hot an humid. Conditions were tough there last year and I always feel the NAPA team rises to those occasions. So, I'm excited about going there."

Next up is the second annual NHRA Nationals in Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 18-20.

UNOFFICIAL FUNNY CAR POINT STANDINGS, after 18 of 24 events (Countdown points in parentheses)
1. Tony Pedregon, 1364 (2110)
2. Ron Capps, 1250 (2080)
3. Ashley Force Hood, 1245 (2070) - winner today
4. Bob Tasca, 1061 (2060)
5. Jack Beckman, 1027 (2050)
6. Tim Wilkerson, 1014 (2040)
7. John Force, 993    1013 (2030)
8. Del Worsham, 963 (2020)
9. Mike Neff, 928 (2010)
10. Robert Hight, 861 (2000) - runner-up today
11. Cruz Pedregon, 856
12. Matt Hagan, 801