2013 NHRA: Ron Capps Carlyle Tools Carolina Nationals Presented By NAPA Auto Parts Event Preview
The last thing Ron Capps needs is added incentive to do well this weekend in the first event of the NHRA Countdown to the Championship.
The driver of the Carlyle Tools Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car will start the six-race Countdown playoff at zMAX Dragway ranked second in points to Don Schumacher Racing teammate Matt Hagan, who will hold a 30-point when qualifying begins Friday evening.
Capps, who owns three titles this year, is the defending champion of the September event at the track near Charlotte and is focused on winning his first NHRA Funny Car championship after finishing second four times including last year when he lost the elusive title by two points to Jack Beckman, another DSR teammate.
But Capps has another reason to hunt for the winner's circle now that the second of two annual events at the track is sponsored by one of his sponsors.
Nothing would be better for Capps than to hoist the winning trophy of the Carlyle Tools Carolina Nationals presented by NAPA.
"Carlyle has been so good to us and we love our relationship," Capps said. "It will be neat to have many of our NAPA corporate executives come over from Atlanta headquarters for the race.
"That always makes racing a lot more fun, especially after we win."
Capps with crew chief Rahn Tobler and assistant John Collins started the season strong with a runner-up finish at the season-opener then followed that by winning the Mello Yello Series event near Phoenix.
But the on-track results slowed through the summer while Tobler experimented with the car in preparation for the Countdown but performance improved greatly beginning in early August when the Carlyle Tools team won the title at Sonoma Raceway near Capps' hometown of San Luis Obispo, Calif.
At the next event, rain washed out two qualifying sessions and a mistake made to setting the clutch timer caused Capps to not qualify near Seattle. But the Carlyle Tools/NAPA team rallied two weeks later at Brainerd, Minn., and won its third title of the season.
After the U.S. Nationals near Indianapolis on Labor Day ended the 18-race Mello Yello regular season, Capps earned the No. 2 spot to start the Countdown, in which the standings were reset for the 10 Countdown qualifiers. The points were reset at 10-point increments with the regular season champion, Hagan, getting a 20-point bonus.
What had been a 114-point deficit to Hagan dwindled to 30 points.
"The Countdown is heightened awareness," Capps said. "I had a blast going right down to the wire in November. Some drivers excel at the pressure and some don't. There's nothing like going right down to the last race of the year at Pomona.
"I'm glad we can kick off the Countdown at Charlotte where we are the defending champions. We found out last year the importance of every single point in the Countdown is heightened. It will be fun.
"The Charlotte win last year was a gut check for everyone on our team and it will be the same for our Carlyle Tools team this weekend."
RON CAPPS, CARLYLE TOOLS/NAPA AUTO PARTS DODGE CHARGER R/T
Last event (Sept. 2, Indianapolis): Qualified No. 5; lost in second round to Tim Wilkerson.
Last race at zMAX Dragway (April 21, 2013, Four-Wide): Qualified No. 11; lost in first round to Matt Hagan, Jack Beckman.
Last September at zMAX: Qualified No. 4; defeated Mike Neff in championship round.
Career at zMAX: Wins 1 (Sept.-2012); runner-ups 0; poles 0
Pts Events Titles Rup Semi Qtr 1st rd Poles DNQ Win/Loss
2013 2nd 18 3 2 4 3 5 1 1 29-14
CAREER 405 41** 41 67 78 159 15 18 500-346
**40 Funny Car/1 Top Fuel
Best Time, Speed: Capps 3.964 sec.* (5-31-12, Englishtown, N.J.), 320.89 mph (5-31-12, Englishtown); * Quickest ever
CARLYLE TOOLS CAROLINA NATIONALS presented by NAPA AUTO PARTS
Friday: 5:15 p.m., 7:30 p.m., nitro qualifying
Saturday: 1 p.m., 3:15 p.m., nitro qualifying
Sunday: Noon, championship eliminations
ON ESPN2 (times are ET)
Saturday: TBD, qualifying, delayed
Sunday: 8:30 p.m., championship eliminations, delayed
Friday: High 85 degrees; 20 percent chance of rain
Saturday: High 77 degrees; 10 percent chance of rain
Sunday: High 79 degrees; 0 percent chance of rain
NHRA COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE
Sept. 13-15 - zMAX Dragway, Charlotte, N.C.
Sept. 19-22 - Texas Motorplex, Dallas
Sept. 27-29 - Gateway Motorsports Park, St. Louis
Oct. 3-6 - Maple Grove Raceway, Reading, Pa.
Oct. 24-27 - Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas
Nov. 7-10 - Auto Club Raceway, Pomona, Calif.
(Reset for start of six-event playoff that starts Sept. 13 near Charlotte; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. MATT HAGAN, 2,110
2. RON CAPPS , 2,080
3. JOHNNY GRAY, 2,070
4. John Force, 2,060
5. JACK BECKMAN, 2,050
6. Cruz Pedregon, 2,040
7. Courtney Force, 2,030
8. Tim Wilkerson, 2,020
9. Robert Hight, 2,010
10. Del Worsham, 2,000
NHRA MELLO YELLO SERIES REGULAR SEASON STANDINGS
(Final regular season after 18 events through U.S. Nationals; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. MATT HAGAN, 1,297
2. RON CAPPS , 1,183
3. JOHNNY GRAY, 1,125
4. John Force, 1,155
5. JACK BECKMAN, 1,110
6. Cruz Pedregon, 1,099
7. Courtney Force, 1,071
8. Tim Wilkerson, 1,023
9. Robert Hight, 1,015
10. Del Worsham, 948
2013 FUNNY CAR WINNERS: C. Force, CAPPS, GRAY, C. Pedregon, HAGAN, C. Pedregon, GRAY, GRAY, HAGAN, J. Force, C. Force, HAGAN, GRAY, C. Pedregon, CAPPS, HAGAN, CAPPS, Hight.