BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Aug. 14, 2012) – When Ron Capps and Don Schumacher Racing's NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car team headed to Brainerd, Minn., a year ago it was not solidly qualified for the Countdown to the Championship.
Capps made it into the Countdown tied for fifth in NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing points and settled for sixth in the final standings. His team never got on track toward the end of last season.
But when the NAPA AUTO PARTS team gets to Brainerd Raceway Friday afternoon it will have already clinched a spot in the Countdown as one of the top-10 teams that will contest for the Funny Car world championship over the last six events of the 23-race national tour.
But Capps and crew chief Rahn Tobler will not arrive at the track located about 130 miles northwest of Minneapolis without another lofty goal to shoot for, a goal that no one thought possible when Tobler and his crew joined Capps after this year's fourth event.
The NAPA AUTO PARTS team had failed to qualify for the event at Las Vegas. At the following race and first with Tobler, Capps advanced to final round of the Four-Wide NHRA Nationals at Charlotte Motor Speedway after qualifying No. 2.
But points leader Robert Hight of John Force Racing won the Four-Wide title and left with a 246-point lead over Capps, who was seventh in points.
However, when qualifying begins at Brainerd, the NAPA AUTO PARTS team will be second only to Hight and only 31 points from passing Hight for the top spot in the standings.
If it doesn't happen this weekend, Capps will have the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis over Labor Day weekend to overtake Hight. But Capps doesn't want to wait.
Moving to first, if only for a race, would mark a remarkable comeback. It also will provide a 30-point bonus for the points leader after Indy when points are reset to start the Countdown.
"That would be huge," Capps said of passing Hight. "Those 30 points are 10 more than we get for winning a round in eliminations."
Perhaps even more important to Capps, is what his team has accomplished whether it goes into the Countdown ranked No. 1 or No. 2.
"The most important part for the team is the momentum you have to have when the first of the six Countdown races starts, and I believe we have that now.
Capps was runner-up at Brainerd a year ago to DSR teammate Johnny Gray and in 2009. The last of his two titles at the track was in 2001.
"We've had good success there," Capps said. "A driver does well at certain tracks because of several factors including the mojo he gets from the fans. I've always done well there and enjoy it because I have family near there."
Capps' wife, Shelley, also is making the northeastern trek from their home in Southern California.
"Shelley's aunt lives about an hour east of the track near the Wisconsin border so a couple hours after we finish at the track on Sunday night we'll be sitting on her aunt's dock at the lake."
It could be the last days of the season when momentum won't matter to Capps.
RON CAPPS: NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
2011 at Brainerd:
Qualified No. 4; lost in championship round to Johnny Gray
Career at Brainerd:
Wins 2 (1998, 2001), Runner-ups 2 (2009, 2011), Poles 1 (2000)
NHRA FULL THROTTLE FUNNY CAR STANDINGS
(Through Kent, Wash., 15 0f 23 events; DSR drivers in CAPS; *clinched spots in Countdown)