2013 NHRA: Ron Capps NHRA SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals
What a difference a year will make for Ron Capps and the NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car team of Don Schumacher Racing when he races this weekend at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
At last April's NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals at Las Vegas, Capps failed to qualify for championship eliminations and then his team's crew chief quit after missing the cut for the 16-car field.
"I really didn't know what to think when that happened," Capps said. "But I trusted whatever Don was going to do."
"Don" is DSR owner Don Schumacher who has built his seven-car team into a dynasty in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Schumacher made a bold move that weekend when he decided to shift crew chief Rahn Tobler, his crew and race cars from DSR's Jack Beckman over to Capps.
The resulting moves not only propelled Capps and the NAPA team to one of its best seasons ever, but Beckman with new crew Todd Smith and Capps former crew edged past Capps to win the NHRA Funny world championship by a mere two points.
With Tobler, who owns three NHRA world championships as a crew chief with three different drivers, the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T won a category-best five event titles, three No. 1 qualifying positions and recorded the quickest Funny Car lap ever at 3.964 seconds in May at Englishtown, N.J.
The team has continued its momentous drive by advancing to the championship round of this season's opening event at Pomona, Calif., winning the next event near Phoenix and will arrive at Las Vegas tied for the points lead with DSR teammate Johnny Gray.
He returns to a track where he won the fall event at Las Vegas for his fifth title at the track.
Capps, 47, is coming off a surprising loss to Beckman in the first round at the last event at Gainesville, Fla. Capps said his team was having trouble slowing the NAPA Filters Dodge enough to maintain traction and made only one good run out of five through the weekend under the first warm-weather conditions of the year, which is what is forecast for Las Vegas.
"The NAPA Dodge wants to run so well that we had a hard time harnessing all of the power, and we got a little behind in qualifying," Capps said. "We've had a great start to the season and this just reminds you how tough it is out here.
"We had the best car here last October with Tobler and I know he'll use his NAPA Know How to get us back on track at Las Vegas. And I'll have my official good-luck charm with me.
"The only bright side of losing at Gainesville was that it might have made my daughter (Taylor) a little happy because she thinks she's our good-luck charm, and she might be. And she will be in Vegas for our next race so all will be good."
Capps travels with his family to events on the West Coast and the Las Vegas event will be their last one together until late July when the series races in Northern California. Taylor, 16, was at Pomona and Phoenix but missed the event in Florida three week ago.
"We've been doing this since Taylor and Caden (age 11) were babies," said Capps, who has won 39 NHRA event titles in his career. "The older they get the more special these trips are because I know it won't be long before Taylor's in college and Caden has sports that won't make it very easy to travel a lot."
Capps, powered by popularity fueled by the NHRA drag racing community, made a late surge to win local radio station Star 94.1's March Man-ness contest to determine the most popular man in San Diego.
Capps, selected by the FM station as one of 16 contestants, made a hard move with an hour left in the on-line voting March 28 and was informed on-air the next morning that he is the most popular male celebrity in the San Diego area.
"It was a little strange because I was up against San Diego celebrities that I watch on TV," said Capps, who lives in Carlsbad, Calif. "I guarantee through this contest we opened the eyes of thousands who have never been to a race about what NHRA drag racing is. It's great for our sport."
Capps easily won his first three match-ups against San Diego television personalities in the single-elimination tournament, but faced his strongest competition in the championship round when paired against You Tube and "America's Got Talent" star, Jorge Narvaez.
"It blew me away how many racing sites whether NHRA, NASCAR or IndyCar were trying to get people to vote for me. I can't thank all the people who posted messages on Twitter(.com) for me.
"Some of the people I race against helped me get votes. That means so much to me. We race against each other on weekends, but we all support each other when something like this contest comes up."
Narvaez and his daughter Alexa, then 3, were wildly popular with a 2011 You Tube video with him playing guitar and Alexa singing. The following year they were picked for "America's Got Talent" and advanced to the quarterfinals.
RON CAPPS, NAPA AUTO PARTS DODGE CHARGER R/T
RON AT LAS VEGAS
A year ago at Las Vegas 1: Did not qualify.
Last October at Las Vegas 2: Qualified No. 8; defeated Jack Beckman in championship round.
Career at Las Vegas 1: Wins 1 (2005); runner-ups 2 (2007, 2006); poles 0.
Career at Las Vegas 2: Wins 4 (2011-2012, 2005, 2001); runner-ups 0; poles 1 (2009)
Pts Races Titles Rup Poles DNQ Win/Loss
2013 1st 3 1 1 0 0 7-2
Career 393 39 40 14 17 481-334
CAREER BEST TIME, SPEED
Capps 3.964* (5-31-12, Englishtown); 320.89 (5-31-12, Englishtown); ** Quickest ever in Funny Car
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES STANDINGS
(after 3 of 24 events; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. RON CAPPS, 244
1. JOHNNY GRAY, 244
3. Courtney Force, 216
4. MATT HAGAN, 209
5. Cruz Pedregon, 181
6. Del Worsham, 168
7. Robert Hight, 156
8. Bob Tasca III, 155
9. JACK BECKMAN, 148
10. John Force, 144
2013 Event winners: Courtney Force, RON CAPPS, JOHNNY GRAY.
THIS WEEK AT LAS VEGAS
WHAT: 14th annual NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals
WHERE: The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
NITRO SCHEDULE (times are PT):
Friday: Qualifying, 3 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
Saturday: Qualifying, 1 p.m., 2:45 p.m.
Sunday: Championship eliminations, 11 a.m.
Saturday: Qualifying, 8 p.m. (ET)
Sunday: Championship eliminations, 11 p.m. (ET)
Friday: High 86; 10 percent chance of rain
Saturday: High 87; 0 percent chance of rain
Sunday: High 85; 10 percent chance of rain