Capps, Tobler have NAPA AUTO PARTS team four points away from Funny Car lead going to this week’s NHRA finale at Pomona


Heading into the 2012 season, Ron Capps addressed being labeled a “bridesmaid” for finishing runner-up three times for the coveted NHRA Funny Car world championship.

He has been the runner-up to the NHRA championship in 1998, 2000 and 2005. Seven years ago, he was so close to winning the championship he could taste it.

"There are a lot of guys who never come that close," he said.

Fast forward to this week and the 2012 Full Throttle Drag Racing Series finale and the 46-year-old Southern California resident is just four points behind Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman with only four qualifying sessions and four elimination rounds left in the season during this week’s Auto Club NHRA Finals at Pomona, Calif.

Capps has been close – very close – before, and no Funny Car driver ever has been as close. In 2005, he was battling former DSR teammate, Gary Scelzi, for the championship in the Pomona finale but came up eight points short in what remains the closest Funny Car battle in NHRA history. At that edition of the NHRA Finals, Scelzi lost in first round but Capps lost in the second round to give Scelzi the championship.

“I've been through this before,” Capps said. “This one feels different for some reason, and that's a good thing.”

Capps acknowledged that getting close isn’t good enough anymore after winning the most recent Funny Car event title on Oct. 28 at Las Vegas where he beat Beckman in the final round.

“I wake up in the morning thinking about it and go to bed thinking about it,” Capps said of the elusive crown. “We’re close. I want to be a champion and be able to represent our sport as the champion.”

Since Rahn Tobler took over Capps’ NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T team after it failed to qualify for the April 1 Full Throttle event at Las Vegas, the duo has dominated the category. After starting with a 4-3 eliminations record, Tobler and Capps have gone 40-13 since for a series-best 44-16. The team also has won a series-best five event titles in the past 16 races.

Tobler regrouped after a disappointing No. 8-qualifying spot at Las Vegas two weeks ago at the most recent event to improve in each of four elimination rounds with times of 4.105 seconds, 4.095 and 4.086 before recording its best effort of the weekend to beat Beckman in the championship round with a 4.070.

That earned the NAPA AUTO PARTS team the NHRA Full Throttle Hard-Working Crew Award for overcoming subpar qualifying on the heels of a bad outing at the Oct. 8 race near Reading, Pa., where the team lost in the second round to Beckman, who left the event with the points lead after winning the event title and setting an NHRA elapsed-time record.

“I'm in a weird frame of mind right now,” Capps said. “Going into Vegas, I knew what we had to do, and to come out with a win like we did was great. But I found myself with a really strange calming effect on (that) Sunday. I think it had a lot to do with Rahn Tobler and my team because we found our car again and were back to what we did earlier in the season, all those final rounds and just the confidence that was built. That helped me as a driver.

“I really found myself in a good place on Sunday driving the car. It was kind of strange because I'm always talking about how a lot of drivers kind of hide the nervousness that we get, and I've been pretty vocal and not afraid to say, look, I was throwing up this morning before first round or whatever it took, and I've always done my job in the cars even though I either had anxiety or was nervous.”

Now it’s on to Pomona.

“It's basically coming down to (qualifying) Thursday, Friday and Saturday trying to gain more bonus points than Jack; four more, at least, so that we can go into Sunday (eliminations) either tied or ahead of him. You have to do that because if we happen to go out the same round, that's going to mean the world championship. That's going to be crucial.

“Qualifying is going to be as big as the race (at Pomona) probably.”

RON CAPPS STATISTICS, POMONA HISTORY
Career at Pomona: Wins 2 (1998-Feb., 2009-Feb.), Runner-ups 3 (2006-Feb., 2008-Nov., 2010-Feb.), Poles 1 (1999-Feb.)
2012 February/Pomona: Qualified No. 8, lost to Mike Neff in semifinals
2011 November/Pomona: Qualified No. 10, lost to Robert Hight in second round

STATISTICS

2012 Pts Races Titles Rup Poles DNQ Win/Loss
2nd 22 5 3 2 1 44-16
Career Races Titles R-up Poles DNQ Win/Loss
386 38 39 13 17 469-331


CAPPS’ CHAMPIONSHIP HUNTS

Year Finish Champion Before Finals Results at NHRA Finals Points Behind Champion
2005 2nd 2nd, -2 points Scelzi lost 1st Rd;
Capps lost 2nd Rd
8 Gary Scelzi
Before Countdown to Championship playoff system (2005 was first season)
2000 2nd 421 John Force
1998 2nd 135 John Force


CAPPS’ CAREER FINISHES/WINS/TEAMS

Year Finish Wins Team/Category Year Finish Wins Team/Category
2011 6th 2 (DSR, F/C) 2002 6th 1 (Don Prudhomme, F/C)
2010 7th 1 (DSR, F/C) 2001 4th 3 (Don Prudhomme, F/C)
2009 3rd 5 (DSR, F/C) 2000 2nd 1 (Don Prudhomme, F/C)
2008 8th 0 (DSR, F/C) 1999 9th 0 (Don Prudhomme, F/C)
2007 4th 3 (DSR, F/C) 1998 2nd 5 (Don Prudhomme, F/C)
2006 3rd 5 (DSR, F/C) 1997 5th 2 (Don Prudhomme, F/C)
2005 2nd 3 (DSR, F/C) 1996* 21st 0 (Don Prudhomme, F/C)
2004 12th 0 (Don Prudhomme, F/C) 1995* 14th 1 (Roger Primm, T/F)
2003 8th 1 (Don Prudhomme, F/C) *part-time seasons


MORE NOTES FOR CAPPS, NAPA AUTO PARTS FUNNY CAR TEAM
  • Capps became the quickest Funny Car driver in NHRA history on May 31 this year when he completed his run in 3.964 seconds at 320.58 mph at Englishtown, N.J.
  • Tobler has won NHRA championships with Shirley Muldowney (1977, 1980, 1982) and Cruz Pedregon (2008).

NHRA FULL THROTTLE EVENT: Auto Club NHRA Finals, Pomona, Calif.

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


WEATHER.COM FOR POMONA

(As of Noon Monday)
Thursday: High 69; 10 percent chance of rain
Friday: High 65, 20 percent chance of rain
Saturday: High 66, 20 percent chance of rain
Sunday: High 72, 0 percent chance of rain


ESPN2 SCHEDULE

Saturday: 10:30 p.m. EST, qualifying
Sunday: 7 p.m. EST, eliminations

Race Facts

NHRA FULL THROTTLE
Countdown to the Championship
standings

  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