Ron Capps Will Challenge for 2011 Championship with New NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car

Steady progress culminating in race-quick runs during six intense days of testing here at Palm Beach International Raceway last week reinforced Ron Capps's belief his new NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charge R/T Funny Car will be in the thick of the championship battle during the upcoming NHRA Full Throttle season.

The new car, featuring unique design characteristics and components, moved from abbreviated, shake-down runs to a test-capping, side-by-side pass against 2009 Funny Car Champion Robert Hight in the initial PRO Winter Warm-up. Capps ran a 4.081-second@ 310.20 miles-per-hour lap versus Hight's 4.102@310.77.

The Winter Warm-up, four side-by-side runs against other top-flight nitro teams over the course of the last two evenings of testing, provided a pre-season practice session mimicking race conditions.

"That was fun," said the 45-year-old California native about the Winter Warm-up run against Hight. "It got our competitive juices going again. Robert made a great run, I made a great run. It's a tremendous help in preparation for [the first race of the season, the NHRA Winternationals, Feb. 24-27] Pomona, getting used to staging against another driver, instead of simply going up and just making test runs."

But testing the new car, and the old one with post-2010 modifications, was the primary reason for six days at PBIR. Capps put 19 total runs on both cars, first with the older one (to ensure having a car for Pomona, since the 2011 model was such an unknown), then the new one which is based around a new concept, DSR-designed chassis.

With solid runs, including competitive ones of 4.08 and 4.11, the older car went on the trailer and the new one rolled out.

"This car is really unique, with design features never seen in the Funny Car class before," Capps said. "But, of course, I can't talk about them and possibly help the folks we are trying to beat."

Initially, Capps was uncomfortable in the new car.

"It's like the old chair in front of the TV," he explained. "You get a new one and you're not used to. But after spending some time in it, everything feels right. Just ask any driver, they'd say the same thing about going into a new car from one they have been driving for a while.

"It felt better each time we ran. It really felt good during those first full 1,000-foot runs of a solid 4.15 seconds and then the blistering 4.075 and 4.081 runs!"