2012 NHRA: Ron Capps Reading NHRA Qualifying: No 8
After two qualifying sessions on Friday and one on Saturday, Ron Capps was not qualified for Sunday's 16-car championship eliminations.
With run try left, it seemed Capps and the NAPA AUTO PARTS team were also racing against threatening skies over Maple Grove Raceway near Reading. It was just another variable for Capps and crew chief Rahn Tobler to contend with.
But on their last chance to realistically keep the NAPA AUTO PARTS team's championship hopes alive, Tobler corrected a mysterious mechanical malady and Capps was able to produce a 4.055-second run at 317.64 mph to earn the No. 8 qualifying position for Sunday's elimination rounds.
"It was a gut-check for the whole team," Capps said.
"It was an incredibly nervous time. When we were in the staging lanes I could hear (announcer) Bob Frey up there talking about how we're the points leader and Beckman can make up all these points if we don't get into the show on Sunday.
"I looked up at the grandstands on both sides and they were packed with people lined up at the fence. I thought to myself why not just enjoy this moment because there could be a time that we look back on this as the most important run we've made so far this season.
"It was a big-time run, not just to get in but to run a 4.05.
"The conditions are so good at Maple Grove. It wasn't just us having problems. Some guys just hit the (tune-up) right and made great runs and then had something to work with. We didn't."
One team that hit it right was Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman, who is breathing down Capps' neck in the Countdown to the Championship points battle.
Beckman with crew chief Todd Smith set pending national records for elapsed time (3.989 seconds) to earn the pole and speed (320.58 mph). Capps arrived at Reading with a 30-point lead over Beckman but the gap has narrowed to 17 points going into Sunday. If Beckman's pending time holds through eliminations he will receive 20 bonus points. Bonus points are not awarded for speed marks.
Rarely is a veteran, championship crew chief like Tobler puzzled, but he was after losing in the second round a week ago near St. Louis and then not being able to get down the Maple Grove track three times.
"It started with some problems we had at St. Louis where our car shook twice and we weren't really sure why," Tobler said. "We thought we had a theory when we came here and tried to address it from that standpoint and all we did was make it worse. It shook again twice and blew (the tires) off in the (Saturday) morning run.
"We had to sit back and look at our engine stuff and figure out where we were having our issues.
"We were focused on what our car needed. It's more important to get that corrected that worry about whether Jack's record holds up."
The following are Capps' qualifying results from Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa., heading to Sunday's scheduled eliminations:
NHRA FULL THROTTLE STANDINGS
Countdown to the Championship
(Thru Oct. 6, 2012; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. RON CAPPS, 2,394
2. JACK BECKMAN, 2,377
3. Mike Neff, 2,303
4. Cruz Pedregon, 2,244
5. Courtney Force, 2,216
6. Robert Hight, 2,211
7. Tim Wilkerson, 2,207
8. JOHNNY GRAY, 2,186
9. Jeff Arend, 2,180
10. John Force, 2,177
11. MATT HAGAN, 1,109
No. 1 qualifier: Jack Beckman (DSR) 3.989 sec., 320.58 mph (pending national record)
Ron Capps, NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
Qualified: No. 8
First-round opponent: Jeff Arend
Session 1: 7.485 sec., 88.37 mph
Session 2: 9.613, 87.52
Session 3: 5.964, 264.60
Session 4: 4.055, 317.64
Sunday: Championship eliminations, 11 a.m. (ET)
(Times are ET)
SUNDAY: Qualifying, 6 p.m.
SUNDAY: Eliminations, 7 p.m.
SUNDAY: High 54; 60 percent chance of showers
UPCOMING FULL THROTTLE EVENTS
Oct. 25-28, Big O Tires NHRA Nationals, Las Vegas
Nov. 8-11, Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, Pomona, Calif.