Early exit at Sonoma doesn't diminish special memories for Capps but fuels desire to get to Northwest Nationals


Ron Capps left the Napa Valley Sunday night with a big smile, but it wasn't generated by winning his third consecutive Funny Car title in the NHRA Sonoma Nationals in Northern California.

What had Capps smiling as he prepared his motorhome for the drive back to his home in Southern California, was that the only wisp of disappointment he experienced the past two weeks was what happened on the Sonoma racetrack.

His race day Sunday ended with a first-round upset when his No. 3-seeded Dodge Charger R/T uncharacteristically lost traction and smoked the tires while veteran Gary Densham breezed with a time that should have been easy for the Rahn Tobler-tuned NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car to overcome.

"It just rattled the car for a long ways, and I finally gave it a quick pedal but it was already in trouble," Capps said. "We're kind of scratching our heads. Rahn will figure it out before we get to Seattle.

"What made it so bizarre and hard to accept is we just don't do that very often with this car."

Tobler was able to get Capps to the No. 3 qualifying position and set a Sonoma track speed record at 317.57 mph.

Had all the stars aligned, Capps would have moved one spot to take the points lead had he won the event title and leader Robert Hight of John Force Racing lost in the first round. Hight also could have taken a nearly insurmountable lead had he not lost in the second round, which leaves Capps 81 points out of first place with three races remaining in the regular season.

"We were hoping to gain more points on the leader, but we'll regroup and head for Seattle," Capps said of the third and last stop of the Western Swing that entails three NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing events in three weeks.

"Sonoma was such a good place for us the last couple years. Sometimes it just doesn't go your way.

"The good thing is we'll be right back on the track so we don't have much time to think about what could have happened at Sonoma because we'll be right back on the track with our NAPA Dodge."

Capps plans to fly to Portland, Ore., on Wednesday for a special NAPA go-karting event and another one the following night in Seattle after he attends the NHRA press conference at the famous Space Needle on Thursday afternoon.

He is, however, a little melancholy that he'll be making the trip solo to the NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash.

For the past two weeks, he has been near his hometown of San Luis Obispo, Calif., on an annual motorhome vacation with his wife, Shelley, and their children, Taylor and Caden.

"I really enjoy getting behind the wheel of the motorhome with the family and they're watching TV while I'm driving," he said. "It's time they can't get away from me. We get to catch up on a lot of things."

What made this trip special was Taylor's 16th birthday was July 25 and they usually have to delay a special birthday surprise until they return home to Carlsbad, Calif.

But her parents arranged for a limousine that first stopped at an airport in Northern California where they picked up her cousin, Ashley Fuqua of Pomona, Calif.

"Taylor gave me a look like she expected the limousine, but when we stopped at the airport and picked her cousin up Taylor was crying she was so happy. She kept telling me and Shelley how much she loved us.

"And the big surprise came when we pulled up to the gate of the venue for a Kelly Clarkson concert. She went nuts.

"It was fun. We had a great time.

"It's a bummer we didn't do that good at Sonoma, but the family-time we got to spend together was pretty cool."

RON CAPPS: NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
Career at Seattle:
Wins 2 (1995, 1998); runner-ups 4 (2001, 2006, 2008, 2010); poles 1 (1997)

2011 at Seattle:
Qualified No. 11; lost in second round to Matt Hagan

*Capps' first NHRA title was in 1995 at Seattle when he drove a Top Fuel Dragster for Roger Primm.

STATISTICS

2012 Races Pts Wins Rup Poles DNQ Win/Loss
Ron Capps 14 2nd 2 3 1 1 26-11
Career Titles Rup Poles DNQ Win/Loss
Ron Capps 378 35 39 12 17 451-326
NORTHWEST NATIONALS NITRO SCHEDULE

At Pacific Raceways, Kent, Wash.
Friday: qualifying, 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m. (PT)
Saturday: qualifying, 12:30, 3:30 p.m. (PT)
Sunday: championship eliminations, 11 a.m. (PT)

ESPN2 SCHEDULE

Saturday: 10:30 p.m.-midnight, delay (ET)
Sunday: 6-9 p.m., delay (ET)

Race Facts

NHRA FULL THROTTLE FUNNY CAR STANDINGS
(through Aug. 29, 2012; Sonoma, Calif.; * clinched spots in Countdown)

  1. *Robert Hight, 1112
  2. *RON CAPPS, 1031
  3. JACK BECKMAN, 943
  4. Mike Neff, 899
  5. JOHNNY GRAY, 881
  6. Cruz Pedregon, 761
  7. Courtney Force, 740
  8. Jeff Arend, 717
  9. Bob Tasca III, 687
  10. John Force, 674
  11. Tim Wilkerson, 605
  12. MATT HAGAN, 583