Capps, NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge top seed in Funny Car going to first event of Countdown to the Championship near Charlotte


One look at Ron Capps after he lost in the opening round of Sunday’s U.S. Nationals told of his disappointment over once again being left out of winner’s circle celebrations at the most prestigious race of the season.

It was one of the few times during this year’s NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season that he struggled to find a way to put a positive spin on not winning a race.

“There was something wrong with the lane, but you can’t blame it on that,” said Capps, who qualified No. 3 for the rain-delayed event near Indianapolis. “We don’t make excuses. Our car hasn’t done that since the fourth race this year in Vegas, and that was before Rahn Tobler came over to be our crew chief.

“You look back at what we did earlier in the year with the six finals rounds in a row, and everything Rahn Tobler has done with the NAPA car has made it one of the best cars in every type of (track and weather) conditions we’ll experience. That will be the key.”

It was the 16th year he had fallen short of winning Indy.

There was solace for Capps, however, in knowing the and the NAPA AUTO PARTS team will start the NHRA Countdown to the Championship this weekend as the top seed that will give him a 30-point lead when points are reset for the top-10 drivers advancing into drag racing’s playoff.

That leaves one more racing dream achievable this year: He also has not won an NHRA season championship through 15 full seasons although he has been runner-up three times including 2005 when he lost to DSR teammate Gary Scelzi by eight points.

This is the second time Capps started the Countdown as the top seed, and in 2007 he trailed off to finish fourth.

“I’ve had good cars and good teams before when I thought I had a good chance win the championship, but something happened each year,” said Capps, who has won 36 NHRA titles in 381 events.

“You have to focus on what you’ve done right, and you need a little bit of luck at least once during the Countdown.”

The veteran from San Luis Obispo, Calif., and the NAPA team have won three titles in six championship round appearances, earned two poles and produced the quickest ever time (3.964 seconds) at the second best speed ever (320.89 mph) but sees this weekend as the start to a new season.

“I learned a long time ago, believe me, not to take anything for granted. When we’re running good I’ll be the last guy talking smack. You thank God any time you can go to the winner’s circle. It’s so tough to do that now.

“You can’t get cocky. The guys who jump up and down after they happen to do well or win a race early in the Countdown will be the ones who are going to fade quick.

“We’ve seen a lot of strange things happen in the Countdown like when Robert Hight went from 10th to first (in 2009).

“The class is as stacked as it has ever been. That’s why we were so bent on getting that No. 1 spot and the extra 20 points.”

RON CAPPS: NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
Career at Charlotte Motor Speedway:
Wins 0, Runner-up 0, Poles 0

April 2012 at CMS:
Qualified No. 2, finished third in Four-Wide final

September 2011 at CMS:
Qualified No. 12, lost in first round

STATISTICS

2012 Pts Races Wins R-up Poles DNQ Win/Loss
Ron Capps 1st 17 3 3 2 1 32-13
Career Races Titles R-up Poles DNQ Win/Loss
Ron Capps 381 36 39 13 17 457-328

COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP

The fields are set for each of the four Full Throttle professional categories heading to the six-event Countdown to the Championship.

The points will be reset at 10-point increments for the Countdown contestants and the points leaders after Indy, which was the 17th event of the year, getting 20-point bonus so they will start the Countdown with 30-point leads in Top Fuel (Antron Brown), Funny Car (Ron Capps), Pro Stock (Allen Johnson) and Pro Stock Motorcycle Eddie Krawiec).

Only the top-10 drivers can contend for season championships but all drivers entered in the last six events will contend with Countdown drivers for event points and titles. The best season finish for non-Countdown driver can be 11th.

SIX IN A ROW

Postponing the U.S. Nationals by one week means the Full Throttle series will now race on five consecutive weekends beginning next weekend with the first race in the Countdown at zMAX Dragway at Charlotte Motor Speedway at Concord, N.C.

Factoring in last week’s rainout it actually means teams will have competed six straight weekends.

Race Facts

NHRA FULL THROTTLE FUNNY CAR STANDINGS
Countdown to the Championship - Official thru Sept. 9, 2012 (Points reset for six-event Countdown; DSR drivers in CAPS)

  1. RON CAPPS, 2,110
  2. Robert Hight, 2,080
  3. JACK BECKMAN, 2,070
  4. Mike Neff, 2,060
  5. JOHNNY GRAY, 2,050
  6. Courtney Force, 2,040
  7. Cruz Pedregon, 2,030
  8. John Force, 2,020
  9. Jeff Arend, 2,010
  10. Tim Wilkerson, 2,000
  11. MATT HAGAN: Did not qualify