If one would have told Ron Capps some five months ago that he was destined to take over the Funny Car points lead by the time the NHRA tour traveled through Brainerd International Raceway, the conversation probably would have induced laughter.
In April, the driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge found himself 246 points behind leader Robert Hight of John Force Racing and appeared to be out of sorts.
Fast forward to Sunday’s Lucas Oil Nationals and Capps was anything but out of sorts. Point of fact, he was right on target after beating John Force in the final, while securing first-place in the standings for the first time this season.
"I feel we're in a good place with our NAPA team because we've been focused on getting ready for the Countdown,” offered Capps.
In pursuit of his 36th national event win, Capps had to deal with two of his Don Schumacher Racing teammates, Johnny Gray and Matt Hagan. It was not an easy pill to swallow by any means.
“It really wasn’t a good ladder,” said Capps. “I hate racing my own teammates. But, you can count on us racing it straight up all the time at DSR. That’s the way we do things.”
While not devastating in his quest to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship, a win for Hagan in the semifinals over Capps would have pushed him into the top 10. Instead, he holds 11th and is 19 points behind Bob Tasca III.
“Of course, I want Matt to get in,” related Capps. “But, I also wanted to win that round and the race.”
Against Force, Capps wondered if “Lady Luck” just might be on the side of the 15-time world champion. Force committed a red light foul in the opening round against Alexis DeJoria, but the latter crossed the center line during her run and was disqualified which allowed Force back in the show.
Force went on to pocket wins over Cruz Pedregon and Tim Wilkerson before lining up opposite Capps, who marched to his third win of the season with a 4.135-second pass at 304.05 mph.
“I looked for him at about 800 feet and saw he wasn’t there which was nice,” said Capps. “I’m just ecstatic about Rahn Tobler (his crew chief) and how he approaches his race days. I knew he would make the right choices.”
Interestingly enough, Tobler won the very first race at BIR in 1982.
"I'm real proud of Rahn Tobler and our entire NAPA team because they've been able to try things to get us ready for the Countdown during our qualifying and sometimes on race days without losing a beat.”
In addition to Hagan, three other drivers (Jeff Arend, Tasca III and Wilkerson) will be looking to claim the final two spots in the top 10 when the NHRA series concludes the “regular season” at Indianapolis in two weeks. Only 39 points separates Arend in ninth from Wilkerson in 12th.
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