2013 NHRA: Ron Capps NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Event Preview
Ron Capps knows repeating last October's performance in the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car is a must when he returns to Las Vegas this week.
He also knows that it will take more than winning this weekend's title in the NHRA Toyota Nationals for him to earn his first NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series championship.
Capps, who has won three titles this season for Don Schumacher Racing, is sixth in the standings and trails points leader John Force by 160 points with two events remaining in the season. A perfect weekend can produce 150 points including 20 for an NHRA national record.
Capps knows he and crew chief Rahn Tobler along with the NAPA team face a daunting task. Heading into the penultimate event, no Funny Car driver has won a championship trailing the leader by more than 69 points; Cruz Pedregon trailed by 69 points in 2008 when he rallied to win the championship in the last two events.
"Our goal is to finish strong," Capps said of Las Vegas and two weeks later at the finale at Pomona, Calif. "Until they tell us we're mathematically out of it we're going to go out and try to win it.
"It's a longshot for us right now but at the same time I know the goal of Tobler and the team is to go and win the race and gain back some of the mojo we had. Probably test on Monday and then try to win Pomona. We want to win both races and see what happens. Stranger things have happened."
The California native and resident of Carlsbad, Calif., isn't involved in a nail-biting drama like he was a year ago with DSR teammate Jack Beckman, who eventually won the championship by two points over Capps. It was the fourth time Capps finished second in the final standings.
"After we left (Reading, Pa.) last year we went to Vegas, won that race and it put us right back in position for a chance to win the championship," said Capps, who owns 41 NHRA titles. "All we can do is keep moving ahead.
"We've shown we can bounce back and be competitive. I've been looking forward to getting back to Las Vegas."
Las Vegas has been a good track for Capps, who has won there five times in seven championship round appearances. None were bigger than a year ago when he beat Beckman in the final round.
"Last year was a gut-check for the team to be able to fight back into the running for the championship. We went to Vegas knowing we had to win; it was a do-or-die situation. That was the only way we could get back into the championship race.
"I believe our NAPA team is going to go out and step over some boundaries that we might not have tried if we were first or second in the Countdown.
Capps had been focusing on gaining ground on Matt Hagan, one of his Don Schumacher Racing teammates who had led the points standings since June 2. While Capps has to move around Hagan and four other drivers, the points leader after the last event at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa., is 15-time champion John Force. Force took the points lead from Hagan during qualifying and moved ahead by 65 points after winning the title.
At Reading, Capps beat Hagan in the second round of eliminations before losing to Force in the semifinals.
"We're going to finish up the best we can," Capps said. "We have to make these last two races our time of the year. I know we have the talent to win and we're going to the last two races with a full head of steam."
CAPPS TO HOST SHOWING OF 'SNAKE & MONGOO$E'
Capps will host a special showing of the new movie "SNAKE & MONGOO$E" at 7:40 p.m. Saturday at Century Orleans 18 in the Orleans Hotel and Casino just west of the Strip on Tropicana Avenue.
The movie, in which Capps plays legendary car owner and promoter Lou Baney, features the 1960s competition between rivals between Funny Car pioneers Don "Snake" Prudhomme and Tom "Mongoose" McEwen.
Capps will join his six DSR teammates at free autograph session from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday in the lobby of New York-New York Hotel & Casino on The Strip near the intersection of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard.
One of Capps' NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T Funny Cars will be on display at New York-New York, which is DSR's official Las Vegas hotel-resort.
RON CAPPS, NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
Last event (Oct. 4-6, Reading, Pa.): Qualified No. 12; lost in semifinals to John Force.
Last race at Las Vegas (April 5-7): Qualified No. 7; lost in first round to Del Worsham.
Last October at Las Vegas: Qualified No. 8; defeated teammate Jack Beckman in championship round.
October totals at Las Vegas: Wins 4 (2012, 2011, 2005, 2001); Runner-ups 0; Poles 1 (2011)
April totals at Las Vegas: Wins 1 (2009); Runner-ups 2 (2007, 2006); Poles 0
Career totals for Las Vegas: Wins 5; Runner-ups 2; Poles 1
Pts Events Titles Rup Semi Qtr 1st rd Poles DNQ Win/Loss
2013 6th 22 3 2 5 5 7 1 1 33-18
Career 409 41** 41 68 81 160 15 18 504-350
**40 Funny Car/1 Top Fuel
NHRA COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP FUNNY CAR STANDINGS
(DSR drivers in CAPS)
Driver, points (wins), behind
1. John Force, 2,457 (3), --
2. MATT HAGAN, 2,392 (4), -65
3. JACK BECKMAN, 2,331 (0), -126
4. Robert Hight, 2,323 (2), -134
5. Cruz Pedregon, 2,307 (4), -150
6. RON CAPPS, 2,297 (3) -160
7. Courtney Force, 2,266 (2), -191
8. JOHNNY GRAY, 2,223 (4), -234
9. Del Worsham, 2,214 (0), -243
10. Tim Wilkerson, 2,175 (0), -282
2013 REGULAR SEASON 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.
2013 COUNTDOWN WINNERS: Hight (Charlotte), C. Pedregon (Dallas), J. Force (St. Louis), J. Force (Reading).
COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE/RESULTS
Sept. 13-15 zMAX Dragway, Concord, N.C.
(Finals: TF - Lucas def. MASSEY; FC - Hight def. HAGAN)
Sept. 19-22 Texas Motorplex, Dallas
(Finals: TF - Kalitta def. Langdon; FC- C. Pedregon def. J. Force)
Sept. 27-29 Gateway Motorsports Park, St. Louis
(Finals: TF - BROWN def. alBalooshi; FC - J. Force def. BECKMAN)
Oct. 3-6 Maple Grove Raceway, Reading, Pa.
(Finals: TF - Langdon def. BROWN; FC - J. Force def. Chad Head)
Oct. 24-27 Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas
Nov. 7-10 Auto Club Raceway, Pomona, Calif.
NHRA TOYOTA NATIONALS SCHEDULE (times are PDT)
Thursday: 6-8 p.m., DSR autograph session New York New York lobby
Friday: 2 p.m., 4:30 p.m., nitro qualifying
Saturday: 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m., nitro qualifying
Sunday: 11 a.m., championship eliminations
ON ESPN2 (times are ET)
Saturday: qualifying, TBD
Sunday: eliminations, 8 p.m. Sunday (delayed)
Friday: High 82 degrees; 0 percent chance of rain
Saturday: 26: High 80 degrees; 0 percent chance of rain
Sunday: High 79 degrees; 0 percent chance of rain