Capps, NAPA AUTO PARTS carry No. 1 Countdown banner to St. Louis where he won his first NHRA Funny Car title

Ron Capps was one of the drag racing fans disappointed when the annual NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event didn’t visit Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis last year.

And he was overjoyed when Gateway returned to the circuit this year and the driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T can’t wait to get back for the AAA Insurance NHRA Nationals that runs Friday through Sunday.

He loves interacting with the Gateway fans, and the track is where he won his first NHRA Funny Car title in 1997 while driving for team owner and drag racing icon Don “Snake” Prudhomme. He also won Funny Car titles at Gateway in 2005 and 2007 and was runner-up in 2009 when he was the event’s No. 1 qualifier.

“I won the inaugural race there, and it’s always been a great place for me. I’m glad to have it back on the tour.

“That was a great win at Gateway,” Capps said, “and we did it with Snake and legendary crew chief Roland Leong. We were having so much fun. Snake was buddies with Rusty Wallace and his brother Kenny. The whole Wallace family came out that day and stuck around for the winner’s circle pictures.

“It was cool to have Rusty and Kenny up at the starting line for every run. It was my first win in a Funny Car. The temperature and humidity were unbelievable. To have the fans still come out was impressive. A lot of good memories there.”

Capps and his NAPA AUTO PARTS team already are loaded with good memories from this season. Their Dodge became the quickest Funny Car ever when it ran 3.964 at 320.89 mph on May 31 at Englishtown, N.J., and advanced to six consecutive final rounds midway through the season.

The team has been the best in class since Rahn Tobler and his crew were moved to the NAPA team after Capps did not qualify at Las Vegas in the fourth event of the year.

Capps will arrive at St. Louis as the Funny Car points leader. The team’s four event titles and two No. 1 qualifying efforts all have come since Tobler took the helm.

The NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge has built a 96-point lead in the standings after two of six races in the Countdown to the Championship, which is NHRA’s playoff. It’s a nice lead, but one that isn’t enough for Capps or his team to think further than St. Louis.

“It literally is one race at a time. We’re not looking down the road,” Capps said.

At the NHRA event last Sunday near Dallas, Capps was upset in the semifinals by DSR teammate Matt Hagan and angry that he could not get the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge to a championship round for the eighth time this season.

“Tobler kept saying ‘think of the big picture’ so Sunday was not such a bad thing,” Capps said. “But when you make it to the semifinals you want to win. The big picture is good.”

He hopes this weekend the picture gets even better.

2011 at St. Louis: No event
2010 at St. Louis: Qualified No. 4; lost in semifinals
Career at St. Louis: Wins 3 (1997, 2005, 2007), Runner-ups 1 (2009), Poles 1 (2009)


2012 Pts Races Wins R-up Poles DNQ Win/Loss
Ron Capps 1st 19 4 3 2 1 38-14
Career Races Titles R-up Poles DNQ Win/Loss
Ron Capps 383 37 39 13 17 463-329


Friday: 4 p.m., 6:30 p.m., qualifying
Saturday: 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m. qualifying
Sunday: 11 a.m., eliminations

ESPN2 SCHEDULE (All times ET, subject to change)

Sunday: 2:30 a.m., 1 p.m.., qualifying
Sunday: 8-11 p.m. ET, eliminations


Friday: high 74, 10 percent chance of rain
Saturday: high 74, 0 percent chance of rain
Sunday: high 78, 0 percent chance of rain


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

Race Facts

(Through second of six Countdown events; 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