SONOMA, CALIF., July 31, 2011 – Ron Capps drove the NAPA AUTO PARTS PlatinumNAPAFilters Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to victory today - his first of the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season - in the 24th-annual FRAM/Autolite NHRA Nationals here at Infineon Raceway.
By outrunning Tim Wilkerson in the final round, Capps moved around John Force and Jeff Arend into sixth place in the Funny Car standings and captured his second-consecutive Sonoma race (and third overall, having also won here in 1997), which was the last time the California native had visited the winner's circle prior to today.
"I was nervous about Tim in that round," he recounted. "We had been running so well today and all weekend, but in drag racing you can't take anything for granted.
"I knew coming into this race we had a good car. You can qualify really well, even number one, but you can't be too comfortable on Sunday when any little thing can cost you the race."
Coming out of the third-qualifying position, Capps dispensed with Bob Tasca III, Don Schumacher Racing teammate Johnny Gray and Cruz Pedregon to advance to the final round. His 4.145-second, 303.57-mile-per-hour lap outdistanced Wilkerson (4.175 at 300.93 mph) to gain the Wally.
"We're hitting our stride and doing it at the right time," said Capps about the improvements which have come in the last several races. "I have been saying for weeks what a great job Tim Richards (crew chief since the Atlanta race in May) has done and now everyone can see it.
"Tim is all business in his approach. Before I knew him, I thought he was a grumpy guy, but it turns out I was wrong - just another case of judging a book by its cover."
For Richards, who has 78 career wins, it was his first trip to an NHRA winner's circle since the 2007 Brainerd (Minn.) event when he was tuning Brandon Bernstein's Top Fuel dragster.
"He's just so focused and inspiring; I want so badly to do well for him," added Capps, who spent much of his life in the Bay Area.
"It was great winning here at Infineon, which I consider my home track," he said. "It's harder to win at your home track, in front of so many family and friends. You have to constantly remind them that while they're there to have fun, you have a job to do."
Capps will now motor up the Pacific Coast for next weekend's 24th-annual NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways, the conclusion of the three-race Western Swing.
"Everything is clicking right now; I am so excited about getting to Seattle for our next race."
Unofficial Full Throttle Funny Car standings after the 13th of 16 regular-season races: