CONCORD, N.C., September 12, 2011 – Bolstered by his mid-season resurgence, Ron Capps drives the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car into this weekend's fourth-annual NHRA Nationals here, the opening round of the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, confident about his chances both in this race and the playoffs.
"We left Indy confident we were one of the best cars in that race," said the Don Schumacher Racing driver about the final race of the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series regular season. "I saw Tim (Richards, crew chief) make great decisions through changing, adverse track and weather conditions. Through all of that, he still was able to rise to the top, which just makes us feel so good going to zMAX."
The California native went into the Indianapolis event intent on moving as high as possible in the Funny Car standings as the regular season ended, allowing him to pull closer to the leader as the six-race Countdown commenced here at zMAX Dragway outside Charlotte. Based on his solid semifinal finish, he will now launch his pursuit of his first championship from fifth.
"The points are reset for the playoffs," explained Capps, who begins the Countdown 60 points - three rounds - behind leader Mike Neff. "We'll focus on every session, qualifying and race, to try and gather every point. If we do it in qualifying over those four rounds, we can grab over a half-round of points, something which can be crucial."
The NAPA Funny Car has been certifiably hot in recent races, accumulating a win along with two runners-up, a semifinal and three quarterfinal finishes in the last seven races. In addition, valuable qualifying points have been gained as six times Capps put the NAPA car in the top half of the field, a performance that allowed him to jump from ninth to fifth in the standings in that brief span.
"Momentum does help going into the Countdown," said the drag-racing veteran. "Early in the season, we went into each session, each round hoping to get down the track. Now, when I get into the NAPA car in lanes, it's how many points can we collect, how quick can we set the pace.
"Now, when I strap in during qualifying, I have so much confidence that we can make a run at the top spot and I expect to be one of the three quickest in each session, regardless of conditions. This feeling of confidence in my crew chief, my NAPA Know How crew and my car is huge for a driver!
"Best of all, we feel like somebody everyone else hates to race; that it's tough to beat us."
The top-10 drivers at the conclusion of the 16-race regular season qualify for the Countdown to 1, with the points reset for the playoffs. The number-one driver gets a 20-point cushion on number two, with each subsequent participant separated by 10 points.
FRIDAY, September 16 - Full Throttle nitro qualifying 4:30 and 7 p.m. EDT
SATURDAY, September 17 - Full Throttle nitro qualifying noon and 2:30 p.m. EDT
SUNDAY, September 18 - Pre-race ceremonies 11 a.m. ET; Full Throttle Series eliminations begin at noon ET
Sunday, September 18 -- ESPN2/ESPN2HD will televise one-and-a-half hours of qualifying highlights 12:30 - 2 a.m. EDT
Sunday, September 18 -- ESPN2/ESPN2HD will televise three hours of final-eliminations coverage 8:30 - 11:30 p.m. ET
Funny Car standings as of the conclusion of the 16-race regular season: