NAPA’s Capps Looks to Clinch First NHRA Championship at Pomona
BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Nov. 8, 2016) – It’s been a season of firsts for Ron Capps and the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car team.
This weekend’s NHRA Finals at Pomona, Calif., is the last of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Drag Racing Series season and Capps already has set career bests for most final rounds (10), most No. 1 qualifying positions (four), most elimination round wins (53) and tied his most event titles (five).
Two more can be added to the list this weekend.
First in his sights is the first NHRA world championship for the California native and resident of nearby Carlsbad after being runner-up a record four times.
Secondly, although he has won the season-opener at Pomona three times, including this season, he can collect his first Finals trophy.
Capps, the second winningest driver in Funny Car history with 49 titles, starts racing Friday with an 86-point lead over Don Schumacher Racing teammate and two-time world champion Matt Hagan and 113 ahead of another teammate, Tommy Johnson Jr. They are the only three with a chance at winning the championship.
“I’m hoping we can do everything right and we can finally finish this deal,” Capps said this week. “I’m almost glad we didn’t clinch it (at Las Vegas two weeks ago) because of the historical value that you get at Pomona with Wally Parks’ name right there and the fact that it’s Pomona.
“It just could not be better, and on top of it, it’s the 50th birthday of the Funny Car, and it’s been fun to celebrate that all year long. We’ll have all the hitters, all my heroes, Funny Car guys probably at the track, so I just couldn’t think of a better weekend to do it.”
The NAPA Dodge led by crew chief Rahn Tobler with assistant Eric Lane and a veteran NAPA Know How team hit a bit of slump in the spring and fell five spots from No. 1 after the race at Topeka, Kan., the eighth event of the season.
But a torrid summer began at Epping, N.H., that was his first of three titles in four June races that moved him back to No. 1 after the next race, a lead he has not relinquished.
“Epping was our big turnaround,” Capps said. “We started there with a track record, and I think at the time the second quickest run in history. That was might off the trailer, and low qualifier there and won, and then went on to Englishtown, did the same thing. We just gained a lot of momentum through the summer.
“Everything sort of came together as a plan with Tobler and our NAPA team, and you know, I said to the media, many of them, that I thought to win a championship it was going to have to be a semifinals or better average in the Funny Car division.”
And through five of six races in the Countdown to the Championship playoff, Capps and the NAPA team have advanced to three semifinals and two final rounds with an eliminations record of 12-5 along with earning the most points during qualifying.
But Capps emphasizes it is far from over.
“Right now our lead is 86 points. If we match Hagan’s team or gain more of those qualifying points than they do, we’ll keep it above 80,” he said of the most that can be earned on Sunday with 20 awarded for each round win.
“If they gain the points and out-qualify us and get it below 80, then we obviously have to win first round to clinch it, but you just don’t know. You don’t want to assume anything.
“Like Don always says, the first thing you have to do is qualify. Listen, we didn’t qualify for the first Vegas race in April this year. You can’t take that for granted.”
Ron Capps: NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
Last event: Las Vegas (Oct. 28-39): Qualified No. 4, lost in semifinals to Courtney Force
2016 Winternationals: Qualified No. 2, won in championship round over Del Worsham
A year ago at Finals: Qualified No. 1, lost in semifinals to Tommy Johnson Jr.
Career at Pomona Finals: Wins 0; Runner-ups 1 (2008); Poles 2 (2012, 2015)
Career at Pomona: Wins 3; Runner-ups 5; Poles 3
*49 FC/1 TF; Best time, speed: 3.843 sec. (2016, Seattle); 330.23 mph (2016, Seattle)
2016 NHRA Countdown to the Championship Funny Car Standings
After 5 of 6 Countdown events
|Driver (2016 event titles)||points|
|1||Ron Capps (5)||2546|
|2||Matt Hagan (4)||2460|
|3||Tommy Johnson Jr. (2)||2433|
|4||Jack Beckman (2)||2395|
|5||John Force (4)||2387|
|6||Del Worsham (1)||2373|
|7||Courtney Force (1)||2334|
|8||Robert Hight (1)||2313|
|9||Tim Wilkerson (2)||2262|
|10||Alexis DeJoria (1)||2184|
NHRA Finals at Pomoma TV Schedule (all times ET)
Friday, November 11: 11:30 pm – Qualifying on FS1
Sunday, November 13: 11:30 am – Qualifying on FS1
Sunday, November 13: 4:00 pm – Eliminations on FS1