Ron Capps has been chasing an NHRA nitro Funny Car world championship since 1997.
The veteran driver has been a bridesmaid three times in 1998, 2000 and 2005.
Flash-forward to the present and Capps is making his best push yet to claim his elusive world title.
The driver of the NAPA Dodge began the Countdown to the Championship by winning the O’Reilly Auto Parts Nationals at zMax Dragway in Charlotte, N.C. Sunday.
Capps clocked a 4.067-second lap to beat Mike Neff who slowed to a 10.406 seconds.
“He (Neff) is a guy who can throw down at any time,” Capps said. “When we were in Englishtown (in June) I figured he was one of the guys in front of us in line who was going to have a 3-second run. He is a good friend and we have been friends for a long time. He came over before (the finals) and said ‘all right bro let’s have fun,’ in the surfer mentality he has. He walked away and got in his car and I got in my car. Then, at the other end, he came over and hugged me. It was cool to race him. There were no games.”
Capps beat Jim Head, Cruz Pedregon, and Matt Hagan before meeting Neff.
“As we saw at Indy (U.S. Nationals), Zippy (Mike Neff) ran the table there and won the race,” Capps said. “Then, we gutted out, without lane choice second round and the semis, and then we ran an 06 over there (in the finals). That to me was the most impressive thing for Rahn Tobler (Capps’ crew chief) to run an 06 when a lot of guys didn’t think they could go down the right lane. Then there is Zippy there next to me in the final and I thought he has a chance at going 2-0 and winning the first race of the Countdown. He is so capable of running as quick as anybody if not quicker, so we were pretty pumped up. They were screaming at us in the radio that the rain was at the highway and it was on its way. You just try to hurry up there and get staged and it just happened so fast, but what a way to start.”
Capps’ NAPA Dodge, which he drives for Don Schumacher Racing, remains atop the point standings at 2230, followed by Neff (2157) and Jack Beckman, Capps’ DSR teammate, at 2152.
This was Capps’ fourth win of the season and 37th of his career.
Despite Capps’ success, he isn’t making any bold statements.
“I’m confident, but you are stupid to get cocky about it or over confident,” Capps said. “I was still a nervous wreck inside when we ran Jim Head in the first round, but I think that helps me drive. I do not take anything for granted. I really thought we were in trouble without lane choice against Cruz (Pedregon) because he went 03 and we went 06 first round and I thought we were in trouble. Rahn Tobler pulled out an 06 in that right lane and I thought man this is going to be fun. I’m cautiously confident.”
Capps also took a minute to reflect on how his season has turned around since his first visit to Charlotte in April, which also was the first race Tobler began tuning his Funny Car.
“It was a dream that day,” Capps said. “All of sudden it was fun again. There were problems going on with that car and we went to the final round and it was fun again. Then, we went on a streak of six final rounds. How many times I finished second (in the point standings), I do not take anything for granted until you are in Pomona and you actually know that you are going to win it, which I have never had that case. Coming back here, what was unique, we made our first run Friday and it was pretty good. Then he (Tobler) did not sleep at all Friday night. He came in Saturday morning in the lounge and he said I think I found out why things have changed since we were here last. He has been chasing some stuff in the clutch even though we have been winning and doing well. Sure enough, he made that change and boom it went 09 in the middle of the day and moved us right up. That’s when I got a little more confident for the weekend.”
Capps knows what changes were made, but he wasn’t about to reveal them.
“I just can’t tell you exactly what they are,” Capps said.
Since Brainerd in the middle of August, Capps has been leading the Funny Car points, but he isn’t putting much stock in his position.
“We have been here before,” Capps said. “We led the points the first Countdown ever (in 2007). We were up by 100 some points going into it and I never saw it again. I do not talk championship yet. I do not even know about it. We are just going to go one race at a time. I learned it can be taken away from you so quick. This win, I take it like this could be the last trophy I ever have. That’s how tough it is to win out here. I cherish it (the win), but I do not get too cocky about it and expect it even though I have a team that can do it.”
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