Early Clutch Engagement Resolved ahead of Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals

NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car team heads to Brainerd stronger after an early clutch engagement error prevents chance at back-to-back titles.

BROWNBSURG, Ind. (Aug. 13, 2013) – The Mello Yello drag racing community was stunned at the last event when Ron Capps and the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car didn’t qualify for championship eliminations of the Northwest Nationals near Seattle.

The Don Schumacher Racing team had won the title six days earlier at Sonoma, Calif., but all teams, including Capps’, were tossed a wicked curveball when Friday’s two qualifying sessions at Pacific Raceways were rained out.

The NAPA team lost traction in the first of two sessions on the following day and were stunned when Capps almost immediately smoked the tires on his last try that left them ranked 17th for the 16-car eliminations field.

It didn’t take veteran crew chief Rahn Tobler very long to determine why the same car that qualified third and won the team’s second title of the season a week earlier could not get off the starting line.

“I wanted them to know what had happened. It didn’t take long once we looked at (computer) data,” Tobler said.

“I screwed up. I was entering a time (in the computer) for the clutch to go off and had the decimal point over by one number. Instead of a particular clutch timer going off at 1.86 seconds it was set to go off at 0.186. In effect, the clutch started to go two-tenths of a second into the run. The car can’t take clutch that early.

 “It was important to me that our team knew we didn’t have any issues with the car and that we weren’t lost; that it doesn’t need anything fixed or changed. I wanted them to know right away that it was my fault, my screw up and that I entered the numbers wrong.

“Like anything else that might go wrong, whether they did it or I did it, what’s important is we make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

It was that latest example of why Capps has so much respect for Tobler.

“It’s easy to blame a lot of things, but it’s very special when the crew chief calls a meeting right after he realizes what happened to let us know everything is alright and he admits to having made a mistake.

“Our NAPA team didn’t race on Sunday but we were even closer after seeing our leader be a leader.”

Join us at Brainerd International Raceway in Brainerd, Minnesota, this weekend for the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals. Or, watch the racing action at home on ESPN2 and cheer on Ron Capps and the NAPA Auto Parts Team.

ON ESPN2/ESPN2HD

Saturday: Qualifying, 11 p.m. (ET), delayed
Sunday: Eliminations, 9 p.m. (ET), delayed

CAPPS’ STATISTICS
(After 16 of 24 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series national events; through Seattle)

                        Pts      Events           Titles  Rup    Semi   Poles DNQ   Win/Loss

2013               3rd      16                      2          2          5          1          1          21-14

CAREER                   403                 40**     41        67        14        17        495-345

                                                                **39 Funny Car/1 Top Fuel

Best Time, Speed
3.964 seconds* (5-31-12, Englishtown, N.J.), 320.89 mph (5-31-12, Englishtown), * quickest ever

CAPPS’ TRACK STATS

Last event: Aug. 4, Kent, Wash.; did not qualify.
AT BRAINERD a year ago: Qualified No. 5; defeated John Force in championship round.
Career wins: 3 (2012, 2001, 1998)
Career runner-ups: 3 (2011, 2009, 1997)
Career poles: 1 (2000)

LUCAS OIL NHRA NATIONALS SCHEDULE

Friday: Nitro qualifying, 3:30 p.m., 6 p.m.
Saturday: Nitro qualifying, 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m.
Sunday: Championship eliminations, 11 a.m.

NHRA MELLO YELLO SERIES STANDINGS

(After 16 of 24 events; through Kent, Wash.; DSR drivers in CAPS)

FUNNY CAR

1. MATT HAGAN, 1,151*
2. Cruz Pedregon, 1,034
3. RON CAPPS, 1,017
4. John Force, 996
5. JOHNNY GRAY, 991
6. Courtney Force, 983
7. JACK BECKMAN, 951
8. Tim Wilkerson, 877
9. Bob Tasca III 874
10. Robert Hight, 841

*Clinched berth in NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship

WINNERS: C. Force, CAPPS, GRAY, C. Pedregon, HAGAN, C. Pedregon, GRAY, GRAY, HAGAN, J. Force, C. Force, HAGAN, GRAY, C. Pedregon, CAPPS, HAGAN.

TRAXXAS NITRO SHOOTOUT QUALIFIERS

The NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootouts, which are races within the U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway over Labor Day Weekend, showcases Top Fuel on Aug. 31 (Saturday) and Funny Car on Sept. 1 (Sunday). Each Nitro Shootout champ will receive $100,000 for their teams.

The following drivers have qualified by winning Mello Yello Series titles this season:

FUNNY CAR
1. Courtney Force (Pomona 1)
2. RON CAPPS (PHOENIX)
3. JOHNNY GRAY (GAINESVILLE)
4. Cruz Pedregon (Las Vegas 1)
5. MATT HAGAN (CHARLOTTE 1)
6. John Force (Bristol)
7. **
8. Fan vote

** The seventh driver will be determined by the winner of this weekend’s event at Brainerd, Minn., if it is the winner’s first title this year, or by the driver highest in points after Brainerd without having won a title this season.

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