Ron Capps knew it was important to start racking up round wins in Funny Car eliminations this weekend at the NHRA Mid-South Nationals at Memphis Motorsports Park in order to stay in the Countdown to 1 playoffs hunt for his first Funny Car championship. And he achieved much of his goal by landing in the semifinal round before being ousted by Tony Pedregon.

He started his Monday in Memphis (after Sunday was rained out) defeating rookie Daniel Wilkerson in a wild ride for the son of Funny Car racer Tim Wilkerson, in which Daniel hit the opposite guard wall, just missing Capps in that lane.

Driving the NAPA Adaptive One Brakes Funny Car, Capps then disposed of points leader Robert Hight in a major points-changing match-up with a 4.109/306.05.

His semifinal face-off against Tony Pedregon was a stunning side-by-side contest which went to Pedregon, who recorded a 4.104/308.57 to Capps' oh-so-close but losing 4.116/306.19. Margin of victory: 15 feet.

"I was pretty impressed because I knew Tony's team had problems even making it up there," said Capps, who moved up to fifth place in the standings, while Ashley Force Hood took over the lead, "but we knew the capabilities of that team, so to go back up and run a 4:11 and get beat is devastating."

As for the close call against Daniel Wilkerson, "It was an incredible run because mine shook the tires and I had to give it a quick pedal,” he said, “and when I did so the front end lifted up and it kind of planted me back in the seat. At the same time, I see Daniel out my window. He kind of popped out my window a little bit.

"I thought, Oh, boy, we're in trouble here. And about that time mine lit on fire. It pushed the head gasket out but it was still under power. In the corner of my eye I saw his tires with a lot of smoke, for some reason, which looked strange.

"All of sudden, his car fell back. I had no idea he turned in behind me. And I went down there and I was on fire. I actually called Ace (crew chief Ed McCulloch) on the radio and told him I was on fire at the top end. I didn't understand why they didn't get back to me on the radio and when I got to the other end of the track, the Safety Safari trucks went right by me. So, I figured something happened.

"Daniel did a heck of a job. Once again, it's proof that Eric Medlen saved another life because had he not been wearing all the safety stuff that we wear now since Eric's accident he could have been hurt pretty bad. You can tell he's got his dad's genes in him.

“After I made sure Daniel was OK, photographer Mark Gewertz from National Dragster showed us a photo which showed his car directly behind me and it could have been so much worse. Had I not been able to pedal it and get around him I probably would have T-boned him and that would have been disastrous. Some times things just work out.

"The positives to take away from this weekend are incredible. To beat Robert Hight's team on that run was the boost that this NAPA team needed to knock a little bit of ground off Hight. The points are bunched up pretty good with three races to go.

"We feel like we have our NAPA hot rod back. To show up here and run as good as we did in these last rounds here on Monday really encourages me for Richmond, because we know the conditions are going to be close to that.

"It was fun today."

Next up is the Fourth Annual NHRA Virginia Nationals in Richmond, Va., Oct. 9-11.

UNOFFICIAL FUNNY CAR POINT STANDINGS, after three of six Countdown to 1 playoffs events:
1. Ashley Force Hood, 2308
2. Robert Hight, 2305
3. Tony Pedregon, 2282 (runner-up today)
4. Jack Beckman, 2235
5. Ron Capps, 2220
6. Bob Tasca III, 2206
7. John Force, 2184
8. Tim Wilkerson, 2181
9. Mike Neff, 2130
10. Del Worsham, 2116
11. Cruz Pedregon, 1003
12. Matt Hagan 961