BROWNSBURG, Ind. (July 24, 2012) – The winner's circle experience always is special, and Ron Capps realizes how fortunate he has been after each of the three times he's won the NHRA Funny Car title at the popular racing facility in Sonoma, Calif.
As a racer, joy shared with your race team, sponsors and close friends can be indescribable.
What makes those moments even more special is when your family and children are part of the celebration.
Capps says he's been blessed not only with a career he is passionate about but winning three times at Sonoma that isn't far from where he has family and close friends.
One of Capps' most prized memories of winning at the Northern California track - if not the most memorable - was when he won there driving for Don Prudhomme in 1998 and he held something far more treasured than any NHRA "Wally" trophy in the winner's circle.
Nuzzled on Capps' shoulder was his 2-year-old daughter, Taylor.
"To win a race and have your family with you is huge. To do it with your daughter at that age is precious," said Capps, who has been joined by son Caden, 10, the last two years after winning titles in the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car.
"There's one picture I have in my office where I'm holding her with her head on my shoulder and she's looking the other way while I'm holding the NHRA medallion for winning. It's great to look back."
Capps and his wife, Shelley, have turned the three-event Western Swing into annual vacations. The family set out from their home in Southern California in their motorhome and spent last week at a lake near San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Although Capps left last Tuesday for the Mile-High NHRA Nationals near Denver, where the team qualified No. 3 and advanced to the semifinals, he returned to a vacation mode Sunday night that will continue the mindset until Friday when racing begins in the NHRA Sonoma Nationals.
"The fun for me will be to show up at a track like Sonoma, park the motorhome up on the hill where you have a beautiful view of the Napa Valley and you're at the racetrack. And I'm with the kids.
"The Sonoma race is my favorite of the year, and not just because we won there the last two years. What made those wins so special was that I had my family with me in the winner's circle, and they'll be with me again. And it's cool because I grew up near there and used to go to all the West Coast races including Sonoma with my dad when he raced.
"On top of that, we have the Eric Medlen dinner, we have some special NAPA AUTO PARTS events and the people there are unbelievable from the ones who work at the track to the fans.
"The Western Swing is a great time for me.
"Taylor has been with us at every Western Swing race since a year after she was born. I have memories driving the motorhome and looking over and seeing her sitting next to me when she was 5."
The competitive cheerleader turns 16 on Wednesday.
"Now I have to keep all the crew guys in the pit area away from her. She's growing older and more and more beautiful, and I'm going to have to fight all these younger kids away from her.
"She has complained in the past that we're always on the road for her birthday and we have to wait until we get home to celebrate with her friends."
Next year, Taylor might be complaining because she wants to help her dad drive the motorhome.
"She just got her learner's permit. I've been letting her drive our car with me. It's fun. I'm blessed with a really good girl.
"I need to figure out something special for her 16th birthday, driving with her dad in a motorhome is not that special so it won't be the best birthday but we'll plan something really cool and big for her."
And the special gift won't be another Wally trophy from Sonoma, although his share of the prize money would satisfy any teenager.
Career at Sonoma:
Wins 3 (1997, 2010-11); runner-ups 2 (2002, 2005); poles 1 (1998).
2011 at Sonoma:
Qualified No. 3; defeated Tim Wilkerson in final round for second straight Sonoma title.
(Through 11 of 23 events; DSR drivers capitalized)