LAS VEGAS, October 30, 2011 – Ron Capps and the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car team accomplished a complete reversal of fortunes by winning today's 11th-annual Big O Tires NHRA Nationals here from the pole position.
The Don Schumacher Racing driver, who reached the winner's circle for the second time in the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season, came all the way back from not qualifying for the previous contest.
"We went to Phoenix and, obviously, we struggled," recounted the native Californian. "We came here, tested and it paid off. I can't say enough about how proud I am of Tim (Richards, crew chief) and my 'NAPA Know How' guys.
"If you had said we were going to leave Phoenix, come here, take the pole and win the race - wow. That last round was amazing, just like the other night when we set low time in qualifying, I didn't think it would stay hooked up, but it did."
Capps put the NAPA car on the pole on Saturday with a fourth-round lap of 4.080 seconds at a track-record 315.49 miles per hour (both marks representing the best of the weekend). He then opened Sunday's final eliminations by defeating Todd Lesenko with a pass of 4.139 at 306.95 mph.
The quarterfinal match up was with DSR teammate Jack Beckman, then second in the Countdown to the Championship standings. Capps posted a 4.187 lap at 305.22 mph to top Beckman's 4.208 at 303.16 mph.
"It was an emotional race with Jack," he said. "Again, I have to commend Don Schumacher who makes sure we race straight up at DSR; there are no team orders in our camp; you have to race and earn your place."
The semifinals brought another top-of-the-standings driver, Cruz Pedregon. Capps posted a 4.125-second pass at 309.20 mph to defeat the driver third in the standings and earn a final-round match with Gray, who had been victorious in their previous final-round race (Brainerd in August).
Today's win propelled Capps from seventh to sixth place, 72 points or less than four rounds behind current leader Hagan with one race left.
"It's cool heading into Thursday in Pomona (Calif.) having even a chance for the championship," commented Capps about the November 10-13 47th-annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals. "It's a long shot, but Tim now knows this car. Besides, he is so good and the weather in Pomona can be cool, so he might be able to go for a record (worth 20 bonus points) - and who knows what could happen.
"Best of all, it was really great winning in front of three of the top NAPA executives (Paul Donahue, President GPC Automotive Parts Group; Dan Askey, President NAPA AUTO PARTS, and Lee Maher Executive Vice President Automotive Parts Group) who came to the track today en route to the Industry Week in Las Vegas."
Unofficial Funny Car standings following 21 of 22 races; five of six in the Countdown to the Championship: