Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Capps, Tobler look for sixth consecutive final round and second NHRA title this year for NAPA AUTO PARTS

Ron Capps and his NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car team were disappointed leaving Englishtown, N.J., 10 days ago.

Although the team led by crew chief Rahn Tobler advanced to the championship round of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series national event on June 3, just getting the chance to race for a title is no longer enough for the team.

Having their eyes on the ultimate prize at each event is understandable considering the team became only the fifth in NHRA Funny Car history to advance to five consecutive championship rounds.

At the NHRA SuperNationals at Englishtown, Capps lost to Don Schumacher Racing teammate Johnny Gray for the title, but the team did something two nights earlier that no one expected.

In the second qualifying session on that Friday night, Tobler and assistant crew chief John Collins tuned Capps to an historic run when they recorded the quickest ever pass by a Funny Car at 3.964 seconds to earn the No. 1 qualifying spot and join teammate Matt Hagan as the only Funny Cars to crack the 4-second barrier. Capps' speed of 320.89 is the second fastest ever.

"It's neat every weekend when we can be racing late in the day," Capps said. "We were disappointed that we couldn't finish off Englishtown by winning because that would have wrapped up a perfect weekend."

Within their successful run over the past two months, the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T won the title on May 6 near Atlanta and has made a hard charge toward catching Robert Hight, who had been the runaway points leader after the John Force Racing driver won four of the first five Full Throttle events this year.

Since Hight's last title, Capps has eliminated him in three of the last four races including in the final round at Atlanta.

"We're creeping up on Robert," Capps said. "Catching him before the Countdown to the Championship is not out of the question."

The Countdown comprises the last six events of the year. After the 17th of 23 events, points standings are reset with the points leader given a 30-point lead over the second-place team.

Heading to this weekend's NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway in picturesque Tennessee, Capps trails Hight by 157 points but the NAPA AUTO PARTS team has shown to be the best one in the Funny Car division over the past two months. 

After the fifth event of this season, Capps was seventh in points and trailed Hight by 330 points.

Capps, 45, will go for his third title at Bristol after winning there in 2001 and 2006. A year ago, he qualified 11th and lost in the first round.

Last year when Tobler was crew chief for DSR's Jack Beckman they qualified fourth and were the runner-up.

"Bristol has always been a great place for me," Capps said. "And Rahn had great success there a year ago so I hope that can transfer over to us this weekend."

It won't count in NHRA statistics, but the NAPA AUTO PARTS team enjoyed a sixth championship round and won another title on Saturday night at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis.

That's when Courtney Collins, daughter of assistant crew chief John Collins, pitched her Plainfield High School fast-pitch softball team to the Indiana state championship for the 4A big-school division by beating Huntington North 3-1.

Courtney, a senior right-hander, had plenty of support from the NAPA AUTO PARTS team including Tobler and numerous other members of the DSR family. Capps watched the game live on the Internet from his home in Southern California.

Courtney allowed five hits and struck out nine - including the last three batters - to earn the complete game victory for the 23-9 Quakers.

Capps was reminded about one reason he prefers drag racing over circle-track racing. In drag racing, cars rarely run into you.

Capps was involved in a crash early in his eighth edition of NASCAR star Tony Stewart's Prelude to the Dream all-star race on Wednesday night at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.

Unfortunately, Ron's NAPA AUTO PARTS car provided by Kennedy Motorsports was collected in a mishap during the first few laps of the 40-lap feature that relegated him to 21st place

"It was a pretty exciting track, it was very slick," Capps said. "We started the main and the car felt good. Guys were going high and low and it was going to be fun to try and work our way up to the front. 

"Somebody got piled up in front of us right in the middle of the front straightaway and it just blocked the whole track. I slowed down and all of the sudden somebody just ran into the back of us and pushed us into Steve Kinser's car. At that point it just did a lot of damage to the front end and we just couldn't finish. 

"What a fun night though, I had a great time. Kennedy Motorsports put together a great car and we had a great NAPA AUTO PARTS paint scheme on it. It was a lot of fun."

Ron Capps stats
(Updated through Englishtown; 9th of 23 events)
2012     Pts    W     Rup     Poles    DNQ    Win/Loss
             2nd   1        3           1          1            19-7
2011     Pts    W     Rup     Poles    DNQ    Win/Loss
              6th   2        3           1           1          30-19
Career Titles   Rup   Poles   DNQ    Win/Loss
              34       39       12       17      444-322

(DSR drivers in CAPS)
Driver (Wins) Points
1. Robert Hight (4) 857
2. RON CAPPS (1) 700
3. Mike Neff (1) 615
5. JACK BECKMAN (1) 543
6. Cruz Pedregon 477
7. Bob Tasca III 451
8. John Force (1) 438
9. Courtney Force 429
10. Jeff Arend 388
12. MATT HAGAN 342

June 15-17, NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals; Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway

Friday: Qualifying, 5:30 p.m., 8 p.m.
Saturday: Qualifying, 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m.
Sunday: Eliminations, noon

Qualifying: 7:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, (delayed)
Eliminations: 7 p.m. (ET) Sunday (delayed)

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