BROWNSBURG, Ind. (May 1, 2012) – Two consecutive championship round appearances for Ron Capps and the NAPA AUTO PARTS team is a solid start with new crew chief Rahn Tobler, but neither are content with being the runner-up.
And no event would be more special for the duo to produce their first NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series victory together than this weekend at Atlanta Dragway, which is the closest national event to NAPA AUTO PARTS headquarters in Atlanta.
But the track in Commerce, Ga., about 70 miles northeast of Atlanta, has not proven to be a good one for Capps. He's raced there every year since 1997 and despite owning 33 NHRA national event titles the best he's done in the Peach State was runner-up three times. But he has not advanced out to the semifinals since 2001.
This weekend, beginning with qualifying at 4:30 p.m. Friday, could be the best chance he's had in over a decade.
Don Schumacher Racing restructured its lineup after Capps and the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T did not qualify for the Full Throttle event at Las Vegas and the team's crew chief abruptly resigned.
Team owner Don Schumacher moved veteran and four-time world champion crew chief Rahn Tobler from the team of DSR driver Jack Beckman to the NAPA AUTO PARTS team along with what had been Beckman's crew and race car.
Todd Smith was hired as Beckman's crew chief, and Tobler also was put in charge of overseeing Beckman's and Johnny Gray's teams.
Before the move, Capps was ranked eighth in points.
Heading to Atlanta, Capps has moved up to third after Tobler directed him to reach the championship rounds of the past two events: April 15 near Charlotte, N.C., and Sunday near Houston, Texas.
"That's two finals in a row for this NAPA team, and that's great." Capps said. "This crew is just top notch. Like I said all weekend, Rahn Tobler could make this car go down the return road. It's really neat for me to sit in the lounge with Rahn and JC (assistant crew chief John Collins) and learn and follow their mindset and listen to what they plan to do on the next run.
"The car runs what (Tobler) says it's going to run. This NAPA Dodge had been like driving a Chrysler 300."
At Houston, Capps qualified No. 2 and was the most consistent Funny Car running no slower than 4.17 seconds until the championship round when his Dodge lost traction and was unable to reach the finish line under full power.
"In the final, it launched fine, but then made a hard move to the right and I brought it back and it started to spin the tires. Once I saw (eventual winner Mike) Neff ahead of me I just coasted. I was really surprised."
Because of the recent performance of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car, Capps won't be surprised if Tobler helps him back to an Atlanta championship round for the first time since 2001.
CAPPS ON MOUND
Capps will be the guest of NAPA AUTO PARTS Thursday and throw out the ceremonial first pitch at noon at Turner Field in Atlanta before the Braves' game with the Philadelphia Phillies.
AT ATLANTA 2011
Qualified 10th; lost first round to Jeff Arend
CAREER AT ATLANTA
Runner-ups: 3 (2001, 2000, 1995)
(Updated through Spring Nationals near Houston; 6th of 23 events)
Thursday - Noon, Ron Capps throws ceremonial first pitch at Turner Field for Philadelphia Phillies at Atlanta Braves game.
Friday - 4:30 p.m., 7 p.m., qualifying
Saturday - 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m., qualifying
Sunday - 11 a.m., championship eliminations
Qualifying: 7-9 p.m. ET, Saturday (delayed)
Eliminations: 7-10 p.m., ET, Sunday (delayed)
Friday: High of 90, partly cloudy
Saturday: High of 90, partly cloudy
Sunday: High of 92, partly cloudy
(Through six of 23 events; DSR drivers capitalized)