Capps Hopes To Cap Comeback At U.S. Nationals
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
It hasn’t been a call-the-Feds-worthy disappearance, but Ron Capps’ drop from sight on Sundays was sudden and mysterious. Fortunately for the 46-year-old NHRA Funny Car driver, it appears he is re-emerging and at exactly the right time.
When the pro cars fire up for the first round of qualifying tonight at the biggest event on the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing schedule – the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals – Capps will have gone 8-2 in rounds of his last three events and will have earned his first victory since 2010.
Credit some personnel shuffling that his team owner, Don Schumacher, orchestrated earlier in the year for the boost in performance and confidence, Capps said this week.
“Our season started when Tim (Richards, his crew chief) joined the team,” Capps said. “We were hanging on in the top 10 by a thread. There are a lot of teams in the top five which may have peaked – I’ve been there – with whatever made them so good in the first part of the season not working now. We’re peaking at just the right time as the Countdown (which will include the top-10 drivers after this contest, with points reset, in a six-race playoff) is set to start.”
Richards joined the team in Atlanta 10 events ago. Progress was initially slow for the Don Schumacher
Racing team and driver which won just one event in 2010 and finshed seventh in points a year after having won a Funny Car-best five races and placed third in the Countdown.
But progress was also steady, Capps said.
His team will begin the U.S. Nationals sixth in points and with a Countdown berth clinched. It will also take to the historic Lucas Oil Raceway strip in Clermont, Ind. with big confidence, big goals and a fast Dodge Charger.
“In past years,” Capps said, “I’ve gone to Indy with a car I thought could win and at times with one I doubted could qualify; this year I know, thanks to the changes in this NAPA team since Tim Richards came on board as crew chief, we have a car which can close the deal. But Indy brings out the best in everyone, so it will be a tough battle.”
Capps has won 32 races in his career, which started in 1995. None of those victories have come in the “Big Go” on Labor Day.
From the sound of it, Capps does not want to win Indy, he needs to win Indy.
“I don’t want my career as a driver to be complete without an Indy win,” Capps said. “I’m so jealous of those who have won it. I’ve felt I’ve deserved it at times, which doesn’t mean anything. Indy makes you work at it. All these years, I’ve come close, had a good car. I have won at Indy (in the all-star shoot out); just haven’t brought home a Wally for my mantel.
“And I really think we have a good shot this year. We had a phenomenal test, putting up great numbers in the heat of the day. Tim didn’t go for an ego shot in testing, but wanted to get ready for this race and for the next three or four. As usual, he just made some unbelievable decisions, like the ones which have gotten us this far and should take us even farther as the year goes on.”
The 57th Annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway, Clermont, Ind.:
Friday, September 2 – Full Throttle series nitro qualifying 7 p.m. ET
Saturday, September 3 – Full Throttle series nitro qualifying 4 and 7 p.m. ET
Sunday, September 4 – Full Throttle series nitro qualifying noon and 3 p.m. ET
Monday, September 5 – Pre-race ceremonies 9:30 a.m. ET; Full Throttle Series eliminations begin at 11 a.m. ET
Sunday, September 4 – ESPN2/ESPN2HD will televise three hours of qualifying highlights 11 a. m. – 2 p.m. ET
Sunday, September 4 – ESPN2/ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying highlights 5 – 7 p.m. ET
Monday, September 5 – ESPN2/ESPN2HD will televise six hours of final eliminations coverage noon – 6 p.m. ETNo Comment