TOPEKA, May 17, 2011 – Ron Capps always looks forward to driving the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car into America's "heartland," where he hopes to repeat his past success at this weekend's 23rd annual NHRA Nationals here.
According to Capps, who has won this race three times (1998, 2006, 2009) and was a runner up in another race (2000), the very challenging nature offered by Heartland Park Topeka's drag strip means success is that much sweeter.
"These are the kinds of races which, if you win, you feel so much better, so gratified," said the Southern California Don Schumacher Racing driver. "I've won races here at 2 a.m. after, obviously, long, difficult delays, and also on a 145-degree track.
"I have a lot of great memories from this track, this race."
Last year the NAPA team was narrowly edged out - by .023 seconds - in the semifinals by eventual-race-winner Robert Hight.
Beyond the track, Capps said the overall atmosphere makes traveling half-way across the country a very positive experience.
"I see improvement of the facility every time we come here," he explained. "And the people here - not just at the track or in the pits - make you feel really welcome. This whole area opens its arms to us, makes everyone in the drag-racing community feel especially welcome and we really appreciate this!"
Capps upbeat approach might puzzle an outsider who simply looks at recent race results, but the NAPA team began a renaissance at last week's Atlanta-area race with the arrival of Tim Richards as the crew chief.
"I see progress on every run - qualifying and eliminations," said Capps. "We rolled out a brand new car in Atlanta, with a new crew chief and I was very encouraged, even if we went out in the first round. We dropped a cylinder at the beginning of the round, which happens in drag racing, but after battling to get into the field for the race, there were a lot of positive things to take out of it.
"This NAPA team really came together under Tim. I understand why he's called the 'General,' and the name fits - in a very positive way! He takes charge, shows leadership and people respond."
"We are going to be in the winner's circle soon, and I think this race would be the perfect one for it to happen."
Capps remains in the ninth position of the NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car standings as the weekend's Topeka events, seventh race on the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series schedule, unfolds. The top 10 drivers after the first 16 races qualify for the Countdown to 1 six-race playoffs for the championship.
"And thanks to the depth of the Funny Car category, there will be good cars which do not make the Countdown," he explained. "So, the first goal for the season is getting into the Countdown since you have to be in it to win it. We fully expect to be there!"
FRIDAY, May 20 - Full Throttle Series nitro qualifying 6:30 and 9 p.m. EDT
SATURDAY, May 21 - Full Throttle Series nitro qualifying 12:30 and 3:00 p.m. EDT
SUNDAY, May 22 - Pre-race ceremonies 11 a.m.; Full Throttle Series eliminations begin at noon EDT
Saturday, May 21 -- ESPN2/ESPN2HD will televise an hour and a half of qualification highlights 5-7:30 p.m. EDT
Sunday, May 22 -- ESPN2/ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage 7-10 p.m. EDT
UNOFFICIAL FUNNY CAR POINT STANDINGS after the fifth of 16 races in the "regular" season: