COMMERCE, Ga. (May 6, 2012) – Rahn Tobler stepped out of the NAPA AUTO PARTS racecar transporter Sunday afternoon with hands in pocket and head tilted skyward.
Despite all the computer technology inside his trailer, Tobler wasn't looking for divine intervention before driver Ron Capps headed for the championship round of Funny Car in the NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.
Tobler, a three-time NHRA world championship crew chief, wanted to see what Mother Nature might have in store before Capps tried to win for the first time at the track where he had raced since 1995.
Tobler has won countless races, but there always is something special about the first one with a driver.
That milestone was reached Sunday when Tobler tuned Capps to a dominating day and their first victory as teammates.
Capps became the first Funny Car winner outside of John Force Racing this season when he defeated No. 1 qualifier Robert Hight, one of four Force race cars.
Capps took full advantage of Tobler's tune-up. Capps was the first to leave the starting line and never trailed Hight, who has won four of this year's seven titles. Capps' championship winning run was completed in 4.166 seconds at 303.91 mph to Hight's 4.399 (273.44).
"Our car started to make a move on that last run," Capps said. "I heard Rahn and John talk about what they were going to do before we went out. The clutch came in a little earlier than I expected and it started to make a move then all of a sudden it came in for another great run."
Capps also moved into a tie for second with Mike Neff in series points behind Hight.
It is the 34th title for Capps, but this one resonated.
Putting some special icing on the winner's cake was that it came about 70 miles northeast of sponsor NAPA AUTO PARTS headquarters in Atlanta, and the first time Mike Rearden, who oversees the NAPA AUTO PARTS motorsports program, was in attendance when Capps won.
"I've been to the final round here four times and it couldn't mean more to finally win here especially for NAPA AUTO PARTS. Mike Rearden with NAPA has been such a big supporter of our program, and the Wally (trophy) is going to him."
DSR owner Don Schumacher opted to move Tobler, his assistant crew chief John Collins and the crew from Capps' teammate Jack Beckman to Capps after Capps did not qualify for the April 15 Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event in Las Vegas.
Veterans Capps and Tobler clicked instantly and have advanced to the championship round in the three races in which they've competed together.
"We had a rough spot back in April when we didn't qualify for the Las Vegas race, but I knew good things would happen when Don (Schumacher) decided to move Rahn Tobler over to our team as crew chief," Capps said.
"I've learned so much from listening to him already. He's made me a better driver and I think helped restart my career.
After qualifying second to Hight, Capps completed his four elimination runs Sunday with times between 4.148 and 4.166 seconds.
"This is such a great team. Our first qualifying run together at Charlotte was so much fun. I'm having so much fun it's unbelievable. It is so much fun to get in the car and know it's going to be a hot rod.
Capps first of 73 final rounds was at Atlanta as a rookie in 1995 when he drove a Top Fuel Dragster for Roger Primm.
The victory also earned Capps one of eight spots in the Traxxas Shootout to be held during the U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway Park near Indianapolis that will pay the winner $100,000.
Event winner: Ron Capps
No. 1 qualifier: Robert Hight (4.104 sec., 308.35 mph)
Ron Capps, NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
Qualified: No. 2
Round 1: CAPPS (4.148 sec., 305.77 mph) def. Dan Wilkerson (4.806, 170.88)
Round 2: CAPPS (4.165, 303.57) def. Matt Hagan (4.328, 280.19)
Semifinals: CAPPS ( 4.164, 304.05) def. Jeff Arend (6.201, 113.28)
Final: CAPPS (4.166, 303.91) def. Robert Hight (4.399, 273.44)
Session 1: 4.160 sec., 304.53 mph
Session 2: 4.114, 309.27
Session 3: 4.153, 301.74
Session 4: 4.220, 296.05
May 18-20, Dollar General NHRA SummerNationals, Topeka, Kan.
(Through six of 23 events; DSR drivers capitalized)