Amidst Milestone Season, Capps Seeks First U.S. Nationals Win
BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Aug. 30, 2016) – Ron Capps and his NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car team is in the midst of a milestone season in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
The team heads into this holiday weekend’s 62nd annual U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway Park near Indianapolis with one race remaining before the six-race Countdown to the Championship begins. The team has already clinched the regular season title.
The NAPA team, led by crew chief Rahn Tobler, leads the Funny Car category with five event titles in eight final rounds and four No. 1 qualifying awards through 17 events.
The five Mello Yello event titles matches Capps’ career best that he accomplished four times in previous years. His four poles is the most in any of his 22 NHRA seasons.
Only a few milestones remain to be checked off his bucket list, and one of those can be accomplished this weekend in the U.S. Nationals, the most prestigious Mello Yello event of the year.
Despite winning three NHRA all-star shootouts during the U.S. Nationals (1998, 1999, 2002) the popular driver with 50 nitro titles (49 in Funny Car) has not made it to a final round on Labor Day of the “Big Go.”
— Carlyle Tools (@CarlyleTools) August 29, 2016
“I haven’t won it yet, and I know with this particular race you have to earn it,” he said. That’s why it’s the U.S. Nationals and why it is our biggest race. I love the fact that I have a great crew chief in Tobler who is so experienced and knowledgeable and adaptable to changing conditions.”
Any U.S. Nationals title is cherished but Capps sees this year’s as an even more special prize.
“It would be hard to top the opportunity we have this year to win Indy during NHRA’s celebration of 50 years of Funny Cars,’” said Capps, who two weeks ago at Brainerd, Minn., won the rain-delayed title from the previous race near Seattle on Aug. 20.
Adding more luster would be joining hall-of-famers with Funny Car connections that he has worked with during his career including team owners Don Schumacher and Don Prudhomme, and former crew chiefs Ed “Ace” McCulloch and Roland Leong.
“This year makes Indy even bigger than it already is,” Capps said.
“Growing up reading my dad’s Hot Rod magazines and reading about the U.S. Nationals, it’s always been the pinnacle of our sport. It’s probably more important to me to win Indy than it is a world championship. That’s how big this race is.
“Ace is considered one of the greatest Funny Car drivers ever because he won Indy five times but never won a championship. He’s told me he wouldn’t trade one Indy trophy for a world championship. That’s how big winning is.”
There is even more on the line for Capps this weekend. He is the top seed for Sunday’s $100,000 Traxxas Nitro Shootout that will be contested during that day’s qualifying.
“Our NAPA team isn’t looking at a world championship or even going to zMAX Dragway in two weeks to start the Countdown. We are looking at Friday night’s first qualifying session and after that we’ll look at Saturday’s qualifying sessions and then Sunday we’ll focus on more qualifying and the Shootout.
“We’ll worry about winning our first Indy when we leave the track Sunday, hopefully after a little time celebrating another Indy all-star title.”
The U.S. Nationals closes out the 18-race Mello Yello regular season. The points payout in the U.S. Nationals is at 150 percent of the value of those at the other 23 national events; each round win on Monday is worth 30 points instead of the customary 20.
After Indy, the top-10 drivers in each pro category will earn opportunities to race for world championships in the six-event Countdown to the Championship playoffs. At that point, points for the top-10 are reset with the regular season winner starting the Countdown opener at Charlotte with 2,110, which includes a 20-point bonus for finishing first in the regular season. Second place starts 30 points behind with 2,080 and the following contenders drop at 10-point increments through the 10th position.
Ron Capps: NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
Last event: Brainerd (Aug. 21, 2016): Qualified No. 5, lost in semifinals to Matt Hagan
A year ago at Indy: Qualified No. 9, lost in second round Jack Beckman
Career at Indy: Wins 0; Runner-ups 0; Poles 0; All-star/Invitational event titles 3 (1998-99, 2002)
*49 FC/1 TF; Best time, speed: 3.843 sec. (2016, Seattle); 330.23 mph (2016, Seattle)
2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car Standings
Top 10 after 17 of 24 events
|1||Ron Capps (5)||1413|
|2||Courtney Force (1)||1198|
|3||Del Worsham (1)||1192|
|4||Jack Beckman (1)||1146|
|5||Matt Hagan (2)||1115|
|6||Robert Hight (1)||1040|
|7||John Force (2)||1003|
|8||Tommy Johnson Jr. (1)||999|
|9||Tim Wilkerson (2)||915|
|10||Alexis DeJoria (1)||765|
NHRA Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals TV Schedule (all times ET)
Sunday: 12:00 noon – Qualifying on FS1
Sunday: 5:00 pm – Qualifying on FS1
Monday: 11:00 am – Championship Eliminations on FS1
Monday: 1:00 pm – Championship Eliminations on FOX