BAYTOWN, TEXAS, April 26, 2011 – Ron Capps drives a new car, with a new look and new crew chief, into this weekend's 24th annual NHRA Spring Nationals here at Royal Purple Raceway full of optimism and excited about the prospects for the NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car.
Looking to turn around the fortunes of the NAPA team, Don Schumacher Racing decided to roll out the Funny Car driven to second place in the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle championship by Matt Hagan and put the tuning responsibilities, for the moment, in the hands of veteran crew chiefs Rahn Tobler and Tommy DeLago, who will split time from their roles tuning the car's driven by Jack Beckman and Hagan, respectively.
"That's what's so great about DSR," said Capps. "We have a lot of guys who are so talented to turn to at times like this. I'm excited because both Rahn and Tommy have shown this year their cars are always a threat to go low E.T. Matt made the final round in Pomona and Jack won the last race, the 4-Wide in Charlotte, so I know these guys have got it together.
"And I never worry about getting into any car put together by my NAPA guys; I don't even think about it - I just go out there and do my job," he added, negating questions about jumping into an entirely different vehicle for this, the fifth race of the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season.
Coinciding with the new car and new tuners will be a new look as Capps's Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car shines in a unique paint scheme showcasing the NAPA Ultimate Tune-Up Big Event. This month-long consumer rebate program begins May 1st at NAPA AUTO PARTS stores, NAPA AutoCare facilities and participating installer shops. (Consumers can obtain further information at www.NAPAUltimatetuneup.com.)
Capps heads into this weekend's event outside Houston in ninth place of the Funny Car standings with 190 points, 159 off Robert Hight's lead. Beckman sits in third place with 289 points and Hagan fifth with 241.
"Points are not crucial at this time of the year," said the Southern California native. "When the day's over, the most important thing is that NAPA has a winning car. That's what we're out here for. We just haven't been giving them that; the job has to be done; NAPA deserves it.
"The points cannot be ignored because you want to maintain a solid position within the top 10 places for the Countdown to 1 playoffs, but after that, it is all about winning races."
Capps believes his job is more crucial now, when the team has been struggling, than in good times.
"I'm more focused," he explained. "The driver's job is more important when the car, the team is struggling; it is more important for the driver to do the same thing every time down the track, to take himself out of the equation so the crew chief can concentrate on finding the right answers. The crew chief's role is the crucial one.
"And when the car is an issue on the track the good driver has to step in and help rescue the situation."
John Medlen, who had been the crew chief since late last year and was instrumental in some redesigns of the basic Funny Car chassis, resigned last week from DSR and is now the vice president of research and development for another drag-racing organization.
FRIDAY, April 29 - Full Throttle Series nitro qualifying 4:30 and 7 p.m. EDT
SATURDAY, April 30 - Full Throttle Series nitro qualifying 12:45 and 3:15 p.m. EDT
SUNDAY, May 1 - Pre-race ceremonies 11 a.m.; Full Throttle Series eliminations begin at noon EDT
Saturday, April 30, ESPN2/ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualification highlights 6-8 p.m. EDT
Sunday, May 1 ESPN2/ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage 7-10 p.m. EDT
UNOFFICIAL FUNNY CAR POINT STANDINGS after the fourth of 16 races in the "regular" season: