2013 NHRA: Ron Capps NHRA Arizona Nationals Event Preview
Ron Capps knows how to find his way to Phoenix, and the best part of going to Firebird International Raceway for him isn't that he's won two NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series titles there.
This weekend will be his second dose of extended family time and another chance of having his wife, Shelley, and two kids join him in the winner's circle before he parks his motorhome and flies the sky to Gainesville, Fla., in three weeks for the third event on NHRA's pro tour to drive Don Schumacher Racing's NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car.
"I always love going to Phoenix," said Capps, who lives near San Diego and is coming off a runner-up finish Sunday in the season-opening NHRA Winternationals at Pomona, Calif. "I relate to my love for certain tracks because of what I'm able to do around the track when my family is with me.
"Phoenix always has been a fun trip. We always go to Rustler's Rooste that's a restaurant with a western theme, a fun slide to get in at the front door and great country/western music. It's a lot of fun and the kids have memories of going there because we've gone there every year since they were born.
"Growing up on the West Coast, (Firebird is) one of the tracks where a lot of family and friends can come to. You put all that together with the climate and the great fans there, and it makes it one of the special tracks for us on the Mello Yello tour.
"On top of that, we've had success there and that really makes you like going back."
Capps won NHRA Arizona Nationals titles at the track south of Phoenix in 2009 and 2003, was runner-up three times and the No. 1 qualifier twice.
His second season with crew chief Rahn Tobler got off to a very good start at Pomona when the NAPA AUTO PARTS team advanced to the championship round but lost traction and smoked its tires while Courtney Force of John Force Racing reeled of a time of 4.025 seconds, which was the quickest of the four-day event.
"I've said it time and time again, Courtney has one of the best cars out here, and she can drive it. That car is going to run hard all year. She's going to be a thorn in everybody's side."
Capps, who ranks second in points after one of 24 events, will remember most the NAPA team's run in the Winternationals semifinal round when he edged DSR teammate Johnny Gray with a stellar run of 4.036 seconds (316.23 mph) to Gray's 4.056 (301.07). Gray was quicker in the previous round so he had his choice of lanes over Capps.
"When you go in and feel like you're racing a quicker car and people are counting you out because you're off a little bit, and then you find it and throw down a run like we did ... those are moments that stand out when you look back. I wish you could bottle up moments like that.
"Tobler showed his tenacity and his NAPA Know How. He put together a 4.03 when the sun was still out. It planted me back in the seat. It was one of those runs that felt like we won a final round. It was huge."
Along with racing on the West Coast, Capps would like a little "home track" advantage considering his sponsor, NAPA AUTO PARTS, also is one of Firebird's major sponsors.
2013 Pts Races Titles Rup Poles DNQ Win/Loss
2nd 1 0 1 0 0 3-1
Career Races Titles Rup Poles DNQ Win/Loss
388 38 40 14 17 474-333
RON'S CAREER BEST TIME, SPEED
3.964* (5-31-12, Englishtown), 320.89 (5-31-12, Englishtown)
* Quickest ever
RON AT PHOENIX
A year ago, qualified 10th and lost to Robert Hight in second round.
Career: Wins 2 (2009, 2003); runner-ups 3 (2005, 2000, 1998); poles 2 (2009, 2000)
LAST WEEK AT POMONA
DSR's Tony Schumacher in the U.S. Army dragster advanced to the Winternationals championship round of Top Fuel where he lost a close race to Shawn Langdon of Al-Anabi Racing; Ron Capps put the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T into the final round but lost traction and Courtney Force of John Force Racing produced the quickest run of the weekend. ...
In an unplanned test of the strength and safety of DSR-built Top Fuel Dragsters and innovative enclosed safety canopy, reigning world champion Antron Brown walked away unscathed from a horrific crash at nearly 300 mph that destroyed his Matco Tools dragster. Brown will be at Phoenix with an all-new car and eager to run in Friday's first qualifying session.
THIS WEEK AT FIREBIRD
WHAT: 29th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals
WHERE: Firebird International Raceway, south of Phoenix
Friday: Qualifying, 2:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m.
Saturday: Qualifying, 1 p.m., 3 p.m.
Sunday: Championship eliminations, 11:30 a.m.
Sunday: Qualifying, 1 a.m., 8 a.m. (ET)
Sunday: Championship eliminations, 8 p.m. (ET)
Friday: High 63; 0 percent chance of rain
Saturday: High 69; 0 percent chance of rain
Sunday: High 64; 0 percent chance of rain
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES
(After 1 of 24 events; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. Courtney Force, 124
2. RON CAPPS, 94
3. JOHNNY GRAY, 76
4. Bob Tasca III, 71
5. Gary Densham, 60
6. Cruz Pedregon, 56
7. MATT HAGAN, 52
8. Todd Lesenko, 51
9. JACK BECKMAN, 43
10. Del Worsham, 38