Catching up with Capps: Full Speed Ahead
Ron Capps is the NAPA Funny Car driver in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. For our “Catching up with Capps” column, Ron sends us occasional updates on his life as a professional racing driver from his own unique perspective.
Well, here we are with a handful of races into the 2014 season already and things are going full speed all around us!
Last time we chatted I had just returned from representing the stars and stripes and NHRA in Sydney, Australia against some great racers. Competition came in a new class Graham Cowin started called Aeroflow Outlaw Funny Cars (which is much like the NHRA heritage series nostalgia funny cars.) It was a great time, especially seeing the huge NHRA following we have over there.
We came back from that trip, then went on our 8th annual “Cruisin with Capps” fan cruise for 7 days. After that, we were home through the holidays. We visited with family, which was really nice, especially with the kids as they are growing too fast for me to keep up.
We are doing those events again later this year. The Sydney trip will be just after our Pomona race again, and our 9th annual fan cruise this year departs from sunny California in early December. It will be a 7 day cruise down the coast to some great stops. Come join the fun if you dare, haha.
It’s funny. My buddy John Force used to repeat to me over and over about really trying to relish the time when the kids were younger, considering the travel and sponsor commitments that we have. He was so, SO right! Again, it is strange to sit down and write a blog to catch everyone up on our NAPA AUTO PARTS team when I am sharing the minute-by-minute, day-to-day stuff on our Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook constantly.
As far as our on-track news for the NAPA team, Rahn Tobler and our crew spent the winter getting some pretty cool in-house DSR parts ready for us to try and implement into our race car early in our season. I know that I haven’t mentioned it very often, but the benefit of not just a multi-car team–but a multicast team with some of the most talented people in all positions–is that when one of our teams is in need of a little help, there is plenty available in a split second.
This season has been a great example of that with our Funny Car team with Tommy Johnson Jr. driving. Don Schumacher had asked that Tobler and his long time protégé John Collins help set that car up with a baseline tune-up like what we had run last season. So at the Pomona and Phoenix races, Rahn and JC were making tune up decisions on our NAPA car while also helping our teammates get that car up to speed.
It wasn’t until Gainesville that Don made the decision to move our long time assistant crew chief John Collins over to Tommy Johnson Jr.’s team as full time crew chief. Don also allowed Tobler to bring a new assistant crew chief, Eric Lane, to our team as his right hand guy. It showed right away as both our team and Johnson’s team qualified and had a good weekend.
One of our favorite races was next in Vegas. It has turned into a sort of home track (imagine that) with all of our friends and family that make it a destination event. Our team followed up Gatornationals with a great qualifying position in Vegas and made it to semi-finals (two races in a row.) That moved our NAPA team up from 9th to 4th in the points.
We had gone to our preseason test in Florida with the new clutch program that we ended with last season, something that Rahn felt very good about after testing. We felt like the progress we could make could make our car quicker, but also make it easier for our other DSR crew chiefs to make the switch with the data we would already have.
Well… while it may be something that we might put back in the bell housing later, it just wasn’t showing Rahn that the different pressure plate configuration was consistent enough for him to have the confidence going to the starting line and making tune-up call in different track conditions.
When I first started driving for Tobler and this great group of talented crew members, consistency could have been his name on his NHRA hard card. Our team had made right around 50 consecutive runs without tire smoke. Crazy, right? I think we went to 6 straight final rounds. Crazy again, right? Talk about having a dream race car to drive. Well, the good news for our NAPA AUTO PARTS fans is that Tobler and our team have gone back to that clutch, same pressure plate (“hat”, it is called sometimes) and flywheel, disc and floater combination that we had run in all those races we won over the last two years.
We also stayed in Vegas and Rahn was able to run some other new DSR parts on the car. That included some new superchargers that our team had rebuilt, improved and put on our blower dyno back at the shop. But we had not yet run them on the car to find out how good and/or consistent they were.
Our test was probably the happiest I have seen Tobler on a Monday at a track looking at a RacePak graph on the computer. The car picked up in spots where he was looking to have it get quicker. And the motor looked very happy, which puts a smile on my face for sure as a driver and team member.
You have to remember that all of this was done by our NAPA team of guys. They never fail to blow me away when curveballs and more hard work is thrown at them, on top of the normal travel, hard work and mostly non-glamorous life an NHRA crew member lives.
So there you have it. I am on a plane (I know, hard to believe) and headed to a small town in Ohio for appearance for NAPA. Then, it’s on to Charlotte for our annual 4-wide race this weekend. We are saving a spot for the next Wally to arrive and hopefully it says zMAX on it.
We got to spend last Friday night watching my new NAPA team mate Chase Elliott and his Dale Jr. team get his first win in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and, trust me, there will be many more to come from him. I am so pumped about him joining our NAPA team. I have a great story about his dad Bill Elliott. I will save it for another time though.
We have had a lot of fans asking about new NAPA TV commercials, and I can’t wait to see what ideas they come up with for this year with me, Chase and our NAPA Know How.
Have to run–plane is about to touch down.
Talk to you soon!