BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Aug. 28, 2012) – Ron Capps has been resting on Cloud Nine since winning this third NHRA event title of the season two weeks ago when he also took over the Funny Car points lead in the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.
The 47-year-old from near San Diego was as high as a well-crafted kite after the race in Brainerd, Minn. It's always nice to win but moving to the top of the standings after 16 events was the perfect set up for preparing for this week's prestigious U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway near Indianapolis.
Don't expect him to start acting like a prima donna as the points leader because he quickly recalls that after five events this year he was seventh in points and trailed leader Robert Hight by 246 points before new crew chief Rahn Tobler sent the NAPA Shocks Dodge Charger R/T into orbit.
Capps will start qualifying Friday night with a 53-point lead over Hight and he wants to leave Indy with the points lead. But he wants something bigger.
In 15 years of racing professionally in NHRA competition Capps' list of 36 event titles does not include one at the U.S. Nationals, after 58 years as the sport's premier event.
"I can't remember ever being as bummed or disappointed after losing a round as after I lost some of the rounds at Indy," he said. "You can talk about Indy and try to treat it like another race, but you can't because it isn't like any other race.
"Part of what makes Indy special is what you have to put into that race. You go in earlier for Indy because of media requests and the hoopla that surrounds a race with such great tradition. You're in town there longer because the finals are on Monday and it's Labor Day weekend. Fans are great, the city is great, the track is great.
While Capps has never won the U.S. Nationals, he has won three special Shootout races in elite eight-car events held concurrently with Indy qualifying.
"I'm not sure why I've been able to win those Shootouts but not the Nationals," he wondered. "We've had good racecars. There were years when we felt we would win the Shootout and the race, but then we'd lose a close race in one of them."
Capps will start the new Traxxas Nitro Shootout on Sunday with the No. 1 seed and his first round opponent will a driver determined by fans voting and then a lottery drawing weighted to favor the most popular driver.
The other six drivers who qualified by winning event titles this year are Capps' Don Schumacher Racing teammates Jack Beckman and Johnny Gray along with John Force, Robert Hight, Mike Neff and Jeff Arend of Kalitta Motorsports.
While a $100,000 Shootout bonus for his NAPA Shocks team by winning the Shootout would add luster to his season, Capps also quests his first series championship after finishing runner-up three times.
But the U.S. Nationals is such a lofty achievement that he would cherish that more than any other racing accomplishment.
"I could quit driving right now and be OK with it. I've done so much in this sport and not winning a championship would be disappointing but not as much as if I never win Indy.
"I heard Ed McCulloch say he wouldn't trade one of his five Indy titles for one championship. He's a dear friend and one of the greatest Funny Car drivers ever.
"He's won Indy that many times and never won a championship and for him to be content with what he accomplished in the sport says a lot about Indy. That's how big Indy is.
"We'll start thinking about winning our first championship after we win our first Indy."
RON CAPPS: NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
2011 at Indy:
Qualified No. 3; lost in semifinals to Bob Tasca III
Career at Indy:
Wins 0, Runner-ups 0, Poles 0
Sunday (12:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m.)
First-round pairings: 1. RON CAPPSvs. No. 8 fan vote/lottery; 2. Robert Hight vs. No. 7 Jeff Arend; 3. JACK BECKMAN vs. No. 6 John Force; 4. JOHNNY GRAY vs. No. 5 Mike Neff
WEDNESDAY: NHRA Fanfest, public press conference and autograph session, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Monument Circle, Downtown Indianapolis
FRIDAY (Aug. 31): Big O Tires Don Schumacher Racing Open House for Riley Hospital, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.; Nitro qualifying, 7 p.m.
SATURDAY (Sept. 1): Nitro qualifying, 3:30 p.m., 7 p.m.
SUNDAY (Sept. 2): Nitro qualifying, 12:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m.
MONDAY (Sept. 3): Eliminations, 11 a.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. (ET), delayed
Sunday: 5-7 p.m. (ET), delayed
Monday: 12-6 p.m. (ET)
NHRA FULL THROTTLE FUNNY CAR STANDINGS
(Unofficial through Aug. 19, Brainerd, Minn.; 16 of 23 events; DSR drivers in CAPS)