Capps, NAPA Dodge team looking for first U.S. Nationals title
BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Aug. 26, 2014) – Ron Capps knows how to find the winner’s circle at the biggest annual event on the NHRA Mello Yello Racing Series circuit, he’s just not found the route on Mondays.
He has left the U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway near Indianapolis with a big trophy and big check three times.
The driver of Don Schumacher Racing’s NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T isn’t a greedy man, but each time he would have preferred to leave with the trophy presented on Labor Day at the conclusion of NHRA biggest event.
The winner of 42 NHRA titles has won at every track on which the NHRA pro tour has competed for at least eight years except Lucas Oil Raceway and Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa.
And Indy is the only longtime NHRA dragstrip where he has never reached a championship round.
“Yeah, that is a little hard to believe,” he said.
“I know we’ve been in a bunch of semifinals at Indy. We just haven’t had success at Indy on Monday,” he said of when championship eliminations are held for the Labor Day Weekend event. “We’ve been fortunate to have won a Shootout there three times. Those were fun, fun races. I’ve had a chance to win three times on Sunday at Indy but haven’t been able to transfer that over to Mondays.”
He hopes that this year’s 60th edition of the U.S. Nationals, which begins a four-day run on Friday evening, will mark his first title in the event known as the “Big Go.”
“I can’t remember ever being as bummed or disappointed after losing a round as after I lost some of the rounds at Indy,” he said. “You can talk about Indy and try to treat it like another race, but you can’t because it isn’t like any other race.
“Part of what makes Indy special is what you have to put into that race. You go in early to Indy because of media requests and our Open House at DSR on Friday. There is so much hoopla that surrounds this race because of its great tradition.”
Part of that tradition is the specialty event that has been the Traxxas Nitro Shootout since 2012. He won the event three consecutive years (1998-2000) while driving for owner Don “Snake” Prudhomme when it was called the Big Bud Shootout.
“I’m not sure why I’ve been able to win those Shootouts but not the U.S. Nationals,” said Ron, who is qualified for Saturday’s eight-car Shootout field. “We’ve had good racecars. There were years when we felt we would win the Shootout and the U.S. Nationals, but then we’d lose a close race in one of them.”
The U.S. Nationals is such a lofty achievement that he would cherish that more than any other racing accomplishment.
“I’ve heard my old crew chief Ed McCulloch say he wouldn’t trade one of his five Indy titles for one championship. He’s a dear friend and one of the greatest Funny Car drivers ever. He’s won Indy that many times and never won a championship and for him to be content with what he accomplished in the sport says a lot about Indy. That’s how big Indy is.”
Ron also will have a unique opportunity to win another trophy during the U.S. Nationals. On Saturday evening, he will race John Force in the weather-delayed championship round of the Mello Yello event held two weeks ago at Brainerd, Minn.
Another development at Indy, which ends the 16-race Mello Yello regular season, will be finalizing the top-10 to compete for world championships in the six-race Countdown to the Championship that begins in two weeks near Charlotte.
Ron starts the U.S. Nationals ranked third in points and while he can’t overcome the two drivers ahead of him in the standings, he is only 81 points ahead of the No. 7 driver. Each round win during Monday’s championship eliminations is worth 20 points.
“We’ll start thinking about winning our first championship after we win our first Indy.”
Ron Capps, NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
Last event Brainerd (Aug. 17): Qualified No. 2; will race John Force during U.S. Nationals in weather-delayed championship round during U.S. Nationals
A year ago at U.S. Nationals: Qualified No. 5; lost in second round to Tim Wilkerson
Career at U.S. Nationals: Wins 0; Runner-ups 0; Poles 0; All-star/Invitational event titles 3 (1998-2000)
** Has advanced to rain-delayed championship round of Brainerd event against John Force that will be contested during Saturday qualifying of the U.S. Nationals; win/loss record includes 3-0 effort at Brainerd.
Best Time, Speed: 3.964* sec., (5-31-12, Englishtown, N.J.); 320.89 mph (5-31-12, Englishtown)
NHRA MELLO YELLO STANDINGS
(Official after 17 of 24 events; DSR drivers in CAPS; * clinched spot in Countdown to the Championship)
driver (wins) points behind
1. *Robert Hight (5) 1,326 ——
2. *John Force (3) ** 1,308 -18
3.* RON CAPPS (1) **1,090-236
4.* TOMMY JOHNSON JR. (1)1.052 -274
5.* Alexis DeJoria (2) 1,035-291
6.* Courtney Force (2) 1,015 -311
7.* MATT HAGAN (1) 1,009-317
8. Cruz Pedregon (1) 929-397
9. Del Worsham 900 -426
10. Tim Wilkerson 848-478
11. JACK BECKMAN 832-494
U.S. Nationals Event Schedule
Friday: 7 p.m., nitro qualifying
Saturday: 4:15, 7 p.m. (Brainerd final round featuring Ron Capps v. John Force, nitro qualifying
Sunday: 12:30, Traxxas Funny Car Shootout Round 1/qualifying
3:30 p.m., Traxxas Funny Car Shootout Round 2/qualifying
4:30 p.m., Traxxas Funny Car Final Round
Monday: 11 a.m., championship eliminations
Sunday: 11-3 p.m., 5-7 p.m., qualifying
Monday: 12-6 p.m., championship eliminations