BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Sept. 19, 2012) – Ron Capps has been on Cloud Nine for several months and not just when he’s in the air on jaunts to and from NHRA races and for get-togethers with his NAPA AUTO PARTS family.
The 47-year-old from Carlsbad, Calif., on Sunday displayed the dominance of his NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car tuned by crew chief Rahn Tobler and assistant John Collins when he won his fourth NHRA title of the season, 37th of his career and the 192nd for DSR.
It also was his first win at the North Carolina track.
Capps would like to continue a hot streak when the NAPA AUTO PARTS team begins racing Friday at the Texas Motorplex near Dallas that is a track he’s only won at once and that was 14 years ago.
“We can’t wait to get to the Motorplex with this team and racecar,” he said. “It’s another very fast track and the weather is supposed to be cool and we showed Sunday what we can do in those conditions.”
Capps would like to have another experience like what he enjoyed Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s zMAX Dragway at Concord, N.C.
Don Schumacher Racing’s NAPA team excelled in each elimination round of the NHRA Nationals in championship eliminations with a consistent, dominating performance that climaxed in the final round when he defeated a tire-smoking Mike Neff of John Force Racing for the title.
“There's Zippy (Neff) in the left lane next to me in the final, and I'm thinking man, he's got a chance to win two in a row and the first race in the Countdown,” Capps said of his fellow Southern Californian, who won the U.S. Nationals title the previous Sunday near Indianapolis.
“Mike Neff is a guy who can throw down at any time. We’ve been friends for a long time. He came over before (we got in our cars) and was like ‘alright bro, let's have fun’ in that surfer mentality that he has then he walked away and got in his car, and I got in my car. Then (after our race) at the other end, he came over and hugged me. It was cool. There were no games.
“He's capable of running as quick as anybody, if not quicker. We were pretty pumped up, and they are screaming at us on the (two-way) radio that rain was at the highway, and on its way. You're so excited and on top of that, you're just trying to hurry up and get up there and get staged.”
Sunday’s event was delayed for four hours by a persistent drizzle and occasional shower, and didn’t start until 4 p.m. with a threat of rain throughout eliminations.
Capps defeated Jim Head in the opening round and DSR teammate Matt Hagan in the semifinals. But a key win for the NAPA AUTO PARTS team was in the second round when Capps faced former Funny Car world champion Cruz Pedregon.
Pedregon had produced a 4.035-second run in the first round that was the quickest of the weekend. Although Capps recorded a 4.069 in the first round, Pedregon’s quicker time gave him choice of lanes for his match-up with Capps.
"Yeah, you're confident,” he said before racing Pedregon. “But, you're stupid to get cocky about it, or over confident. I've learned that. Today I felt comfortable in the first round, but we ran Jim Head and I was still a nervous wreck. I think that helps me drive. I don't take anything for granted.
“I really thought we were in trouble without lane choice against Cruz. He went .03, we went .06 first round.
“To me, the most impressive thing for Rahn Tobler was to run that .06 (without lane choice) when a lot of guys didn't think they could go down that right lane.”
Capps extended his points lead over second place from 30 to 73 points. Neff moved around his teammate Robert Hight, who lost in the first round and fell to fourth, and into second heading to the fifth of six Countdown events this weekend at the Texas Motorplex at Ennis, Texas, near Dallas.
Capps appreciates being in position to win his first NHRA world championship after being runner-up three times since becoming a full-time professional racer in 1997, but he knows his team has to qualify for five more events and win a lot of rounds.
“Confident, yeah, but cautiously confident."
The following are Capps’ statistics and other notes for the AAA Fall NHRA Nationals at Texas Motorplex.
RON CAPPS: NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
Career at Texas Motorplex:
Wins 1 (1998); Runner-ups 1 (2011); Poles 2 (1997, 2005)
2011 at Texas Motorplex:
Qualified No. 7; lost in championship round to Cruz Pedregon
Friday: 3, 6 p.m., qualifying
Saturday: 12:45 Traxxas Shootout Round One, qualifying, 2:30 Traxxas Shootout Round Two, qualifying, 4 p.m. Traxxas Shootout Final
Sunday: 11 a.m., eliminations
SUNDAY: Qualifying, 1 p.m.
SUNDAY: Eliminations, 8:30 p.m.
FRIDAY: High 91 degrees; 0 percent chance of rain
SATURDAY: High 89 degrees; 0 percent chance of rain
SUNDAY: High 80 degrees; 0 percent chance of rain
NHRA FULL THROTTLE FUNNY CAR STANDINGS
Countdown to the Championship
Official thru Sept. 16, 2012; 1st of 6 Countdown events