NAPA AUTO PARTS’ Capps heads for fast times at Maple Grove, intends to extend points lead in Countdown to Championship


Ron Capps and the NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car team are headed to Reading, Pa., this week and he’s not concerned that Maple Grove Raceway is one of only three tracks where he has not won an NHRA event title.

He’s never won at Norwalk, Ohio, but the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series only has competed there since 2007. He doesn’t own a U.S. Nationals trophy from the track near Indianapolis but has won three all-star races there.

And the points leader in Funny Car isn’t daunted by not having won at Maple Grove, where he’s raced since 1997.

“I’ve run good there and been close to winning,” he said of runner-up finishes in 1999 and 2000.

This year, however, he grew very fond of racing on the East Coast. On May 31 at Englishtown, N.J., Capps, with a tune-up from crew chief Rahn Tobler and assistant John Collins, recorded the quickest time ever by a Funny Car at 3.964 seconds and second fastest speed ever of 320.89 mph.

“We showed at Englishtown we know how to run in good conditions,” Capps said.

“We’ve got a good hot rod. There’s still 20 bonus points out there for someone who sets a national (elapsed time) record, and there are several cars out here that could do it, and we’re very capable of doing it.

“It will be fun.”

Capps and the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T will begin qualifying Friday with a 30-point lead in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship after three of six events in drag racing’s playoff.

DSR teammate Jack Beckman, who is second to Capps in points, took a big chunk out of Capps’ 96-point lead last weekend near St. Louis when Beckman won the event title and Capps lost in the second round after a rare incident for his team when his Dodge lost traction and smoked the tires to lose to DSR teammate Matt Hagan.

What made it surprising was Capps had the quickest run of the first round when his Dodge completed a pass in 4.072 seconds that also was quickest of the day in Funny Car.

“Rahn showed what he’s made of in the first round when we were the quickest of the round so we would have lane choice. About halfway down the track against Matt it started to shake and smoke the tires, but Matt and (crew chief Tommy DeLago) have had one of the best cars out here lately. We knew it would take a good run to beat them.”

Hagan, the reigning Funny Car world champion, had a subpar first half of the season and didn’t qualify for the Countdown so he can’t compete for this year’s championship. But Capps said when he’s at the line he’s not thinking about whether he’s paired against a car that he’s battling for the championship.

“When I go out there I’m really not thinking about who’s in the Countdown and who isn’t. I get so engrossed in what’s going on at the track that it doesn’t register whether or not the car in the other lane is in the Countdown until I’m watching the replay on ESPN2 or someone tells me.”

But it’s a sure thing other Countdown contestants know exactly what Capps is doing.

“That sound you heard after we lost was everybody in the Funny Car pit area cheering because we went out. That’s how it is; I’ve been there. Everybody wants to gain ground. That’s OK.

“The nice thing is we go right back at it this weekend at Reading, and the weather is showing it will be cool and get in the 60s. It’s going to be really fast. As a driver, it excites me to know I’ll strap in and have to hold on.

“We’ll see what happens. I’m up for when these guys throw the pressure at us. We can put out a good hand and raise them. It was fun to do it in the first round, and I think we can do it all weekend in Pennsylvania.”

RON CAPPS: NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
Career at Maple Grove Raceway: Wins 0, Runner-ups 2 (1999-00), Poles 0
2011 at Maple Grove Raceway: Qualified No. 6; lost in first round

STATISTICS

2012 Pts Races Wins R-up Poles DNQ Win/Loss
Ron Capps 1st 20 4 3 2 1 39-15
Career Races Titles R-up Poles DNQ Win/Loss
Ron Capps 384 37 39 13 17 464-330


NEXT FULL THROTTLE EVENT: Reading, Pa.

Friday: Qualifying, 2 p.m., 5 p.m.
Saturday: Qualifying, Noon, 3p.m.
Sunday: Championship eliminations, 11 a.m.

ON ESPN2

(Times are ET, schedule subject to change)
SUNDAY: Qualifying, 12:30 a.m., 6 p.m.
SUNDAY: Eliminations, 7 p.m.

WEATHER.COM FORECAST

FRIDAY: High 80; 10 percent chance of rain
SATURDAY: High 64; 40 percent chance of showers
SUNDAY: High 55; 40 percent chance of showers

UPCOMING FULL THROTTLE EVENTS

Oct. 25-28, Big O Tires NHRA Nationals, Las Vegas
Nov. 8-11, Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, Pomona, Calif.

Race Facts

NHRA FULL THROTTLE
Countdown to the Championship
(Thru Sept. 30, 2012; DSR drivers in CAPS)

  1. RON CAPPS, 2,361
  2. JACK BECKMAN, 2,331
  3. Mike Neff, 2,262
  4. Cruz Pedregon, 2,202
  5. Tim Wilkerson, 2,197
  6. Courtney Force, 2,180
  7. Robert Hight, 2,179
  8. JOHNNY GRAY, 2,149
  9. Jeff Arend, 2,148
  10. John Force, 2,143
  11. MATT HAGAN, 1077