Hot weekend by closest pursuer drops Capps to second in Countdown points, but NAPA team not giving up fight


Ron Capps said he enjoyed watching Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman set national elapsed time and speed records over the weekend at Maple Grove Raceway.

But as the driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T it wasn’t any fun knowing that he lost the Countdown to the Championship points lead to Beckman with two events remaining in the season.

“Hats off to all the guys on that team,” Capps said. “As a fan of the sport, that car was fun to watch all weekend. As a driver we dream of weekends like that.

“But the gloves come off at Las Vegas and Pomona; that’s going to be a lot of fun,” Capps said of the season’s final two events that will determine the 2012 Funny Car world championship.

While Capps’ Dodge didn’t qualify for elimination rounds until Saturday night on its fourth and final try, only a stellar driving job in the first round extended them to round two that was delayed by rain to Monday.

The extra day of racing matched Capps against Beckman, who was the No. 1 qualifier, with the winner resting atop the points standings. Beckman got the win when Capps’ Funny Car lost traction for the fifth time in six runs at the track near Reading, Pa.

“Everybody is going to have these races throughout the season, but it’s unfortunate it happened to us now,” said Capps, who trails Beckman by 23 points. “Everyone has a hiccup in the Countdown. I just didn’t think we would.”

The NAPA AUTO PARTS team opened the six-event Countdown to the Championship by winning the event title near Charlotte to take a 96-point lead. At the next race near Dallas, the team advanced to the semifinals but have now lost in the second round at the past two races.

“I told the media and fans when we were up by 96 points and they were saying the championship was over that to never say that. This is exactly why. You have to stay grounded. This can happen in a heartbeat.

“We had a good handle on the car, and I just feel so bad for (crew chief) Rahn Tobler because he always is so in-tune with the car and the car never really has gone out of bounds like this. It threw him a curveball when it we didn’t make it down the track either time on Friday.

“We made it down the track with that (4.055) Saturday night to get qualified, and we tried to come back with the same tune-up in the first round Sunday but it shook the tires.”

Tobler and the team will test the NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car on Thursday near Indianapolis, but DSR team member and NHRA Top Fuel and Funny Car titlist Tommy Johnson Jr. will be the test driver.

At Dallas, Capps said foreign material – mostly likely clutch dust – got into an eye and he was treated for it but an infection developed in the eye. The infection has spread to the other eye and he will see his ophthalmologist Tuesday.

The following are Capps’ results from Maple Grove Raceway:

FUNNY CAR
Event winner: Mike Neff (John Force Racing)
No. 1 qualifier: Jack Beckman (DSR) 3.989 sec., 320.58 mph

Ron Capps, NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
Qualified: No. 8

SUNDAY ELIMINATIONS
1st round: CAPPS (4.249 sec., 310.48 mph) def. Jeff Arend (4.480, 233.24)
MONDAY ELIMINATIONS
2nd round: BECKMAN (4.042, 316.09) def. Ron Capps (4.576, 196.96)

FRIDAY QUALIFYING
Session 1: 7.485 sec., 88.37 mph
Session 2: 9.613, 87.52
SATURDAY QUALIFYING
Session 3: 5.964, 264.60
Session 4: 4.055, 317.64

NEXT FULL THROTTLE EVENTS
Oct. 25-28, Big O Tires NHRA Nationals, Las Vegas
Nov. 8-11; and the Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, Pomona, Calif.

Race Facts

NHRA FULL THROTTLE FUNNY CAR STANDINGS
(Unofficial through Oct. 8, 2012; DSR drivers in CAPS)

  1. JACK BECKMAN 2,437
  2. RON CAPPS 2,414
  3. Mike Neff 2,383
  4. JOHNNY GRAY 2,246
  5. Cruz Pedregon 2,244
  6. John Force 2,217
  7. Courtney Force 2,216
  8. Robert Hight 2,211
  9. Tim Wilkerson 2,207
  10. Jeff Arend 2,180
  11. MATT HAGAN 1,129