Warmup

NAPA Funny Car Builds Momentum Heading into Kansas Nationals

BROWNSBURG, Ind. (May 15, 2013) – Crew chief Rahn Tobler is methodical about how he approaches each drag race and never loses focus on what it would take to win a season championship.

NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car driver Ron Capps fully understands the three-time world champion crew chief’s melding of short-term with long-term goals.

And sometimes it takes patience for Tobler, Capps, assistant John Collins and the rest of the crew on Don Schumacher Racing’s Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car.

And that patience has been tested in four of the past five Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events.

Capps started the season with a runner-up finish in the opener and followed that by winning the next event title at Phoenix. But the team was unable to get past the first round of the next three races before advancing to the semifinals at Houston two weeks ago followed by a second-round loss Saturday at Atlanta.

“We definitely got our car back at Houston,” Capps of the race two weeks ago. “And we were low ET in the first round at Atlanta last Saturday and qualified No. 2. Our NAPA Dodge is back to reacting the way Rahn wants it to. He couldn’t be happening at a better time.”

Tobler shifted to testing mode after winning the Phoenix title by trying some new parts and set-ups in preparation for the season’s long haul over the summer that starts Friday with the NHRA Kansas Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka.

“We tested what we wanted to test under race conditions and learned some great things,” said Capps, who has won 39 NHRA titles including three at Topeka. “What we learned applied to a track like Atlanta and will apply to tracks coming up like Topeka.

“The great thing about having such a great leader like Tobler is having a guy who won’t quit until he finds the answer.”

Capps and Tobler appeared to be the pole-winning time of 4.073 seconds at Atlanta until DSR teammate Matt Hagan followed with a better 4.067. The NAPA team started Saturday’s eliminations with the quickest time in the opening round but a mysterious gremlin snuck into the Dodge and cost it a chance of advancing to the semifinals when Capps lost to another DSR teammate, Johnny Gray, who went on to win the title.

“We didn’t know what caused our Dodge to lose a cylinder against Johnny, but I knew Rahn would find it. He was so excited when he called me Tuesday afternoon to tell me he found a faulty ignition box that caused the cylinder to drop. That’s encouraging. We were both excited about learning that.”

And Capps couldn’t think of a better track for the NAPA AUTO PARTS team to make a move in the standings and improve on its No. 4 ranking.

“I have great memories of Topeka. We used to have two races a year there and always had good mojo there. We get a lot of NAPA people coming from all around Kansas. Topeka draws fans from a lot of areas. It’s so centrally located people come from all over. You get a real eclectic group of fans.

“The town and the whole area really gets behind the race. It’s a racing community that supports their track.”

And it could be the first time since the second race of 2013 where Capps can celebrate with them.

CAPPS’ TOPEKA TRACK STATS
Last event (May 10-11, Atlanta): Qualified No. 2; lost in second round to Johnny Gray.
A year ago at Topeka: Qualified No. 4; lost to Jack Beckman in championship round.
Career at Topeka: Wins 3 (2009, 2006, 1998); runner-ups 2 (2012, 2000); poles 0

Best time, speed (date, location)
Capps 3.964* (5-31-12, Englishtown. N.J.), 320.89 (5-31-12, Englishtown) * Quickest ever

NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES STANDINGS
(After seven of 24 events)
FUNNY CAR
1. Cruz Pedregon, 547
2. MATT HAGAN, 534
3. JOHNNY GRAY, 474
4. RON CAPPS, 440
5. Tim Wilkerson, 423
6. Courtney Force, 421
7. JACK BECKMAN, 372
8. Robert Hight, 343
9. Del Worsham, 342
10. Alexis DeJoria, 326

THIS WEEKEND: NHRA Kansas Nationals, Heartland Park Topeka

SCHEDULE:
Friday: Qualifying, 5:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m., ET
Saturday: Qualifying, 1 p.m., 3 p.m., ET
Sunday: Championship eliminations, 11 a.m. ET

ON ESPN2
Saturday: 5:30-7:30 p.m., ET, delayed
Sunday: 8-11 p.m., ET, delayed

THIS WEEKEND: NHRA Kansas Nationals, Heartland Park Topeka

WEATHER.COM
Friday: High 83; 20 percent chance of rain
Saturday: High 87; 20 percent chance of rain
Sunday: High 87; 40 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms

about author

Nick Palermo

Nick Palermo is a freelance automotive writer and NAPA Know How blogger. Since becoming an auto news and reviews contributor at AutoTrader.com in 2011, he has broadened his coverage of the automotive industry to include topics like new car technology, antiques and classics, DIY maintenance and repair, industry news and motorsports. A committed advocate for automotive media professionals, Nick is a member of the Greater Atlanta Automotive Media Association.

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