Capps cheery as testing prepares NAPA AUTO PARTS team, crew chief Richards for 2012 NHRA Full Throttle season

Photos courtesy of Mark J. Rebilas.

Ron Capps thrives on competition and might have picked up a few pointers from traveling to cheerleading tournaments last month to watch 14-year-old daughter Taylor's intensity when she performed.

The 46-year-old from San Luis Obispo, Calif., won't be trying any acrobatic moves like Taylor when pre-season testing begins today in South Florida, but it is clear a passion to win runs in the family.

Capps gets to rekindle his competitive fire today when the NAPA AUTO PARTS team begins five days of testing at Palm Beach International Raceway in Jupiter, Fla. The first three days, which are not open to the public, lead up to the track's PRO Winter Warm-Up on Friday and Saturday.

Capps and the NAPA AUTO PARTS team got off to a slow start in the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series and a big change was made after the fourth event when veteran tuner Tim Richards joined the team as its crew chief.

Six events later, the Don Schumacher Racing team qualified second and advanced to the championship round. Three races after that, the NAPA AUTO PARTS team won the title at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., for its first of two 2011 victories.

Unseasonable heat and a challenging track at Firebird International Raceway near Phoenix contributed to the team not qualifying for championship eliminations but it rallied to win the next race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the penultimate event of the season that helped Capps rally to finish sixth in points. A boost to the effort came in the fall event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway where Capps won the pole and went on to win the title.

"We felt pretty good with where we finished considering what happened at Phoenix, and losing in the first round at Charlotte really buried us," Capps said of the September event at zMAX Dragway at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.

As much as that upset Capps, it upset Richards even more.

"I hate to lose at the smallest thing, but Tim is even more competitive. I love that he is even more competitive than I am. I didn't think that was possible."

Richards, 67, came out of a brief retirement to join DSR. He tuned Brandon and Kenny Bernstein to wins and Kenny to the 2001 Top Fuel championship. Richards also guided Joe Amato to six NHRA Top Fuel championships and 81 national event wins.

Capps said he's coming off one of his most relaxing off-seasons. In addition to watching Taylor cheer, the family spent Thanksgiving in Hawaii.

He was at DSR Headquarters in Brownsburg in December to be fitted for a new Funny Car. He said Richards plans to begin testing with the car the team used to finish the past season.

Capps also is pleased that his team returns intact.

"That's big time. It's good any time you can start the season with the same exact guys.

And it will help to start the season with Tim.

"It's all good."

Race Facts

Final unofficial Funny Car standings:

  1. Matt Hagan, 2540
  2. Jack Beckman, 2468
  3. Cruz Pedregon, 2465
  4. Robert Hight, 2447
  5. Mike Neff, 2440
  6. Ron Capps, 2397
  7. Bob Tasca III, 2327
  8. Jeff Arend, 2303
  9. John Force, 2232
  10. Tim Wilkerson, 2212