Capps loses in semifinals Sunday at Texas Motorplex but extends points lead in Countdown to the Championship

Ron Capps and the NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car team lost a battle on Sunday, but enhanced its position in the championship war.

Capps was able to extend his points lead in NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship by advancing to the semifinals of the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex near Dallas.

Capps padded his points lead by 20 points over the other 10 Countdown competitors. He leads second-place Mike Neff of John Force Racing by 96 heading to St. Louis this week for the third of six events in the Countdown.

Although Mike Neff and Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman, who rank second and third respectively, lost in the second rounds, Capps could not further extend his lead when he was eliminated in the semifinals by Matt Hagan, another DSR teammate who lost in the final round to Bob Tasca.

“It’s good we made a little ground on second and third place, but it’s still way too early to even talk about what could happen for the championship,” Capps said of his quest for a first NHRA season title. “If we win we don’t have to worry about anything. But when you make it to the semifinals you want to win. The big picture is good.

“I wanted to throw up when I got back to our pit, but Tobler kept saying ‘think of the big picture’ so Sunday was not such a bad thing.”

The possible turning point in the semifinals occurred in the second round when Hagan was able to post an elapsed time quicker than Capps that gave Hagan the choice of lanes. Nearly every driver with lane choice on a hot Texas day opted for the left lane which is the one Hagan chose.

Capps’ 4.220-second run at 288.09 mph was a blink slower than Hagan’s 4.203 (293.03).

“That was the first time we made a run down the right lane all day,” Capps said. “I was impressed still impressed with how we ran. We learned something on that run that could help us at the races coming up.

“I was real impressed with (crew chief) Rahn Tobler and (assistant) John Collins and how well we did going down the right lane against Matt. That lane was treacherous and a real challenge so for us to run a 4.22 says a lot for our team.

The next stop for the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T team is this weekend at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis where Capps won his first Funny Car title in 1997 while driving for team owner Don “The Snake” Prudhomme.

The following are Capps’ results and notes from the NHRA Fall Nationals near Dallas:

Winner: Bob Tasca III (Tasca Racing)
No. 1 Qualifier: Courtney Force (John Force Racing), 4.081 sec., 308.21 mph

Ron Capps, NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
Qualified: No. 6

Round 1: CAPPS (4.119 sec., 303.64 mph) def. Blake Alexander (4.189, 298.34)
Round 2: CAPPS (4.194, 299.06) def. Jack Beckman (4.235, 296.76)
Semifinals: Matt Hagan (4.203, 293.03) def. CAPPS (4.220, 28.09)

Session 1: 5.016 sec., 151.44 mph
Session 2: 4.172, 299.60

Session 3: 4.134, 295.01
Session 4: 4.201, 29126
Traxxas Shootout final: John Force def. Ron Capps

Sept. 28-30, NHRA Midwest Nationals, Madison, Ill. (St. Louis area)
Oct. 4-7, NHRA Nationals, Reading, Pa.
Oct. 25-28, Big O Tires NHRA Nationals, Las Vegas
Nov. 8-11, Auto Club of Southern California Finals, Pomona, Calif. (finale)

Race Facts

After second of six races in the Countdown to the Championship
(Unofficial through Sept. 23, 2012; DSR drivers in CAPS)

  1. RON CAPPS, 2,307
  2. Mike Neff, 2,211
  3. JACK BECKMAN, 2,210
  4. Cruz Pedregon, 2,167
  5. Robert Hight, 2,144
  6. Courtney Force, 2,140
  7. Tim Wilkerson, 2,123
  8. JOHNNY GRAY, 2,113
  9. John Force, 2,104
  10. Jeff Arend, 2,095
  11. MATT HAGAN, 978