BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Sept. 6, 2012) – Ron Capps knew momentum would be important heading to the NHRA U.S. Nationals near Indianapolis, and he is not worried that a one week rain delay will cause his NAPA Shocks team to lose it.
Like the rest of the drivers in the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, Capps is accustom to delays like the past weekend when the U.S. Nationals was bogged down in a quagmire at Lucas Oil Raceway after rain Sunday and Monday delayed completion of the event to this weekend.
The U.S. Nationals is far from being just another event. Not only is it the most prestigious of the 23 events on the Full Throttle tour, but the 58th annual "Big Go" has added importance for Capps and Don Schumacher Racing's NAPA Shocks Funny Car team.
The priority for Capps and crew chief Rahn Tobler is to hold their lead in the Full Throttle Funny Car standings through the U.S. Nationals, before they start the six-event Countdown to the Championship, Sept. 14-16, at zMAX Dragway at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Indy is the 17th and last event in NHRA's "regular season" after which the top-10 drivers advance to the Countdown where points standings are reset at 10-point increments and the regular season points leader gets an additional 20 points to start the "playoff" with a 30-point lead over the second-seed.
Capps will start the rain-delayed U.S. Nationals with a 53-point lead over Robert Hight of John Force Racing.
After rain washed out last Saturday's final two qualifying sessions, NHRA planned to close qualifying after three of five sessions and go to championship eliminations the next day. Had the scenario played out, Capps would have locked up the No. 1 position heading to the Countdown because Hight was unable to qualify for the 16-car championship eliminations in the first three sessions.
But when rain continued and eliminations could not be run on Labor Day, NHRA reopened qualifying for this Saturday and moved eliminations to Sunday. That gives Hight two more chances to make the field where Capps had qualified No. 5.
"There's a lot going on at Indy so to have the momentum and the No. 1 seed for the Countdown is even bigger than the 30 points you get," said Capps, who has won three titles this season in the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T. "The points are crucial but more than anything it's the momentum.
"You want to have momentum, and we will have that when the Countdown starts. We're going to have five races in five weeks and before you know it there will be two races left in the season (Las Vegas and Pomona, Calif.) and a couple teams will be fighting for the championship going to Vegas and several others that won't be."
The U.S. Nationals also is a title missing from Capps' resume that includes 36 Full Throttle event titles.
An added feature to this Saturday's two qualifying sessions is the inaugural Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Funny Cars, and Capps is the No. 1 seed in the eight-car all-star field in which the winner will earn $100,000 for his team.
Although he hasn't won a title at Indy, he has won three previous Shootout titles and adding a fourth on Saturday would be another jewel to this season that already includes running the quickest elapsed time ever in a Funny Car at (3.964 seconds at 320.89 mph) and becoming only the fifth Funny Car driver to advance to six consecutive championship rounds.
He hopes to follow the tire tracks of his DSR teammate Spencer Massey, who won the Traxxas Nitro Shootout title for Top Fuel Dragsters and $100,000 last Saturday.
Capps is more eager to earn a bigger prize that won't pay an extra penny.
"It has been a remarkable season already, and we'll focus Saturday on the Shootout," he said.
"You have to approach the Shootout like it's a separate race, but it is part of qualifying and there will be cars in the Traxxas Shootout still trying to qualify for the regular eliminations on Sunday."
One of them will be Right.