New Car and Crew Chief Excite Capps Heading into Weekend's Atlanta Race


Ron Capps expects a major turn-a-round for the NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car team beginning this weekend in the 31st annual NHRA Southern Nationals here at Atlanta Dragway with a new car being tuned by a new crew chief.

The Southern California native, who came out of the last race in Houston sitting in ninth place of the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car standings, is ready to turn things around now.

"This would be a great race to get back to our winning ways," he said. "Atlanta is headquarters for NAPA, a great organization with great people and great supporters of our team, so it would be the perfect place to record our first win of the season."

Capps's excitement is centered on the changes for the NAPA team - a new crew chief and a new, Don Schumacher Racing-built, Funny Car.

"The news Tim Richards was taking over the NAPA car meant a new chapter was beginning for the NAPA team," he said. "It was so exciting being around Tim at the last race, (he was observing, not tuning), watching the way his mind was working throughout the weekend. Talking to him reminded me of the savvy, experienced crew chief you always hope to have as a driver.

"This is the type of guy who is consistent, who knows how to get down a track when it is hot, when it is tricky and is the same guy who, when the track is cool, can stand on it and go for record numbers. Tim seems like one of those guys.

"This is very rare," Capps added. "Today, you have young, aggressive crew chiefs who are always going for the numbers or older, more conservative ones who consistently get down the track, but are reserved. Tim has both qualities!"

According to the veteran driver, who has reached the semifinal round three times in the Atlanta race, a key to success is a combination of hard work by the NAPA team and the resources of DSR.

"Our [DSR] crew chiefs can discuss things, compare notes and figure out how to improve everyone's cars," he explained. "This is simplified and more accurate because of the great job the guys in the shop do in building our cars. I can't say enough about how great it is to have the in-house capability to build our own chassis and I look forward to getting into my new car this weekend.

"The NAPA guys have worked really hard getting this new car ready and they worked really hard at the last race in Houston, a transitional one, getting Matt Hagan's car from last year ready for me and good enough to qualify and get to the quarterfinals."

Going deeper into each race, winning rounds is the first goal of the rejuvenated NAPA team, Capps said.

"I am very confident all of the changes made in the past couple of weeks are the beginning of the resurgence," he said. "First, you have to go rounds which is a key to improving confidence, my confidence as a driver as well as the team's confidence in me and the program.

"When we start going rounds, getting deeper into each race, the wins will come, but I'm not worried about that or where we are right now. Thanks to the Countdown to 1 [playoffs], you have to hit your stride at the right time. This is the right time for us to hit it, for our great NAPA team now with Tim Richards, to gather momentum going towards September and the Countdown.

"Now is the time for this NAPA team, which has been together for many years. We're not used to not being in the later rounds. I'm excited about the future and the rest of the year with this team, this car."

Weekend Schedule:

FRIDAY, May 13 - Full Throttle Series nitro qualifying 4:30 and 7 p.m. EDT
SATURDAY, May 14 - Full Throttle Series nitro qualifying 11:45 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. EDT
SUNDAY, May 15 - Pre-race ceremonies 10 a.m.; Full Throttle Series eliminations begin at 11 a.m. EDT

Television
Saturday, May 14 -- ESPN2/ESPN2HD will televise an hour and a half of qualification highlights 7-9:30 p.m. EDT
Sunday, May 15 -- ESPN2/ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage 7-10 p.m. EDT

Race Facts

UNOFFICIAL FUNNY CAR POINT STANDINGS after the fifth of 16 races in the "regular" season:

  1. Mike Neff, 399
  2. Robert Hight, 381
  3. Jack Beckman, 363
  4. Cruz Pedregon, 322
  5. Jeff Arend, 299
  6. Matt Hagan, 296
  7. John Force, 281
  8. Bob Tasca III, 247
  9. Ron Capps, 244
  10. Johnny Gray, 234