POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 10, 2012) – Ron Capps is not thinking past noon Sunday. He’s doing everything he can to focus on the first round of championship eliminations of the Auto Club NHRA Nationals at Pomona, Calif.
But it’s hard not to sway from examining all the scenarios that could enable him to win his first NHRA world championship.
“I’m not looking past the first round,” Capps aid. “You have to only think about the first round.”
One aspect of achieving his dream that he doesn’t have to worry about is how his NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car should perform when racing begins 11 a.m. Sunday at Auto Club Raceway. Before the last of his four qualifying sessions that was a concern.
But on his last run Saturday evening, Capps and crew chief Rahn Tobler shot from 16th position to the No. 1 spot with a stunning run of 4.007 seconds at 319.29 mph to win his third pole of the season. That performance enabled Capps to move within two points of points leader and Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman.
“The plan was to be ahead of Jack (in points) going into Sunday, and we failed at that,” Capps said. “It’s two points and quite possibly if we go out in the same round I would lose the championship by two points.
“Like Tobler just told me, if we go out and win (the event title) they can’t take it. The plan is to win the race, but it’s going to be tough. It’s like we have to race Murder’s Row if we get past first round.”
Capps faces two-time NHRA Funny Car champion Tony Pedregon in the first round, and Capps will have his choice of lanes.
“I think I aged almost 10 years the last couple hours by almost not being in the show with one run to go,” Capps said.
Moments before his final run, the NAPA team knew it was locked into the top-16 and were certain to race on Sunday.
“When he knew we were in, Tobler came over and made some adjustments to the (computer) box in front of me,” Capps said of what happened while he was strapped into the cockpit. “He’s looked a little stressed out this weekend. I looked at him and said, ‘Hey, are we having fun?’ He stopped for a second and smiled. That was a nice moment.
“We’ve had everything thrown at us, and I guess that’s how the season’s going to end.”
If Beckman and Capps lose in the same round, the championship will go to Beckman. Capps can only win his first championship by advancing one round farther than Beckman.
And if Beckman and Capps win their first three races Sunday, the championship would come down to the final run of the year.
Mike Neff of John Force Racing is a longshot to win the championship. If Beckman and Capps lose in the first round, Neff would need to win the event title and set an NHRA national elapsed time record in the process.
The following are Capps’ qualifying results heading to Sunday’s championship eliminations on Sunday at Pomona’s Auto Club Raceway:
No. 1 qualifier: Ron Capps (DSR) 4.007, 319.29
Ron Capps, NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
Qualified: No. 1
First-round opponent: Tony Pedregon
Session 1: 7.675 sec., 71.87 mph
Session 2: 4.700 sec., 183.77 mph
Session 3: 4.131, 276.69
Session 4: 4.007, 319.29
NHRA FULL THROTTLE STANDINGS
(Through Nov. 10, 2012; DSR drivers in CAPS)
|1. JACK BECKMAN||2,570||--|
|2. RON CAPPS||2,568||-2|
|3. Mike Neff||2,477||-93|
Here’s how pro drivers can earn points on Sunday:
During championship eliminations, each of the 16 qualifiers are assured 20 points, then each round winner gets 20 points so the event winner will receive 100 points;
There also is a 20-point bonus for a driver who sets and leaves an event with an NHRA national elapsed-time record. (No bonus points are offered for a national speed record.)
PENALTIES. A driver can lose points as the result of a malfunction that results in fluid being deposited on the racing surface and requires NHRA Safety Safari to clean the track resulting in an event delay.
48TH ANNUAL AUTO CLUB NHRA FINALS AT POMONA, CALIF.
Sunday: 11 a.m., championship eliminations
(As of 5 p.m. Friday)
Sunday: High 69, 0 percent of rain
Sunday: 6-9 p.m. (EST), championship eliminations
NHRA FULL THROTTLE FUNNY CAR STANDINGS
(Unofficial final standings; DSR drivers in CAPS)