Capps Returns To Form At Qualifying In Seattle

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 4 2012

Ron Capps is provisional polesitter at the NHRA Northwest Nationals. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series)

An upset victim in Sonoma, Calif., six days ago, Ron Capps began the final leg of the NHRA’s Western Swing Friday by racing to the provisional Funny Car qualifying lead at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash.

Point-leaders Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Spencer Massey (Top Fuel) also emerged as qualifying leaders at the 25th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries.

Capps was trailered by veteran Gary Densham in the opening round of last Sunday’s 25th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals, where his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T lost traction early and smoked the tires.

On Friday, Capps’ 4.119-second 1,000-foot pass at 298.47 mph during the second qualifying session was quickest among the 8,000-horsepower Funny Car class. Second-quick was Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman’s pass at 4.121-seconds and 302.82 mph in the Schumacher Electric Battery Extender/Valvoline Dodge.

Capps has logged plenty of history at Pacific Raceways; it’s the home of his first career victory in 1995, when he beat NHRA legend Connie Kalitta in the Top Fuel final. Capps has posted three victories and four runnerup finishes at the track.

“I never worried about how our NAPA Dodge would run here, not with our team and having Rahn Tobler as our crew chief,” Capps said. “We talked about mojo earlier and I must say that we have something here at Seattle. I didn’t expect to go to the top but I’m glad we did. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens Sunday. I’m not sure what it is, but I just love coming here and always have, ever since my rookie season.

“If the track would cool off you could see some outstanding runs, but I don’t think that’s going to happen over the next few days. That’s OK by me because Tobler has a great handle on this track.”

Ambient temps of 89 degrees with zero percent chance of rain are forecast for Saturday and Sunday.

Ranked second in the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series standings, Capps earned three qualifying bonus points to cut the advantage of former world champion Robert Hight, of John Force Racing, to 78 points. “Robert and I are good friends, and it’s fun to have that carrot out in front of you,” Capps said. “If we can catch him, great; if we don’t it’s not the end of the world.”

Hight, driver of the Auto Club Ford Mustang, tried aggressive and cautious approaches to the Pacific Raceway surface. In both sessions Hight’s Jimmy Prock-tuned Ford launched hard but just past half-track shook the tires loose. In the second session Hight clicked the lights with a time of 4.263-seconds at 263.20 mph after Prock tried to back-down the tuneup.

“We got after it in the first session,” said Hight, a semifinalist here last summer. “We were a little too aggressive but Jimmy knows he can dial this Auto Club Mustang back (Saturday). In the second session we tried to back it down but we couldn’t get it to react the way we wanted.”

In Top Fuel, Massey recorded the quickest pass of the day during the second qualifying session, edging DSR teammate Tony Schumacher for the qualifying lead with a 3.837-second 1,000-foot pass at 319.60 mph. Schumacher equaled Massey’s ET but was relegated to the No. 2 spot based upon speed.

“Being No. 1 is always what we want to do, but to actually come out and do it here makes it even that much better,” said Massey, driver of the FRAM/Prestone dragster.

Massey noted the trio of DSR drivers – including Antron Brown, who has won the first two Western Swing events in the Matco Tools car and is in the No. 5 qualifying position – are running well with their new DSR-built chassis. “We qualified just a little bit better than our Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tony Schumacher,” Massey said. “We all three have our new DSR dragsters and with the technology behind us these cars should be running just as close as they have been. It shows you how well our entire program is put together.”

Massey credited the team’s ever-increasing speeds to the brain trust of crew chiefs Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler. “I really don’t know why we’ve had the top speed so much lately,” Massey said. “I know I have Todd Okuhara. It seems like he’s always the man with the plan. He knows how to get these cars down a racetrack. Between him and Phil, they have the technology in their minds to make this car go fast and we’re proving it.”

With three bonus points earned Friday, Massey took sole position of the No. 1 spot from Brown in Top Fuel. Still, Massey never has been to a final round at Pacific Raceways during his Top Fuel career. But the Texan advanced to the first final round in his NHRA career at Pacific Raceways in 2006 in the Top Alcohol Dragster category.

“I’ve got a little bit of history here and I’d like to make some more of my own history in Top Fuel as well and try get to a Wally here this weekend,” Massey said. “We have an agenda and that agenda is to stay in the point lead heading into the Countdown, and we’re doing our best to make that happen.”

NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship is a six-race playoff featuring the top-10 in points in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle.

In Pro Stock, Johnson powered his Mopar Dodge Avenger to the provisional No. 1 position with his 6.554-second quarter-mile pass at 211.66 mph under sunny conditions. Johnson has been the No. 1 qualifier at the past five events and eight times this season. He has made the quickest run of every qualifying session since the start of the three-race Western Swing in Morrison, Colo., near Denver.

Johnson, who exited Sonoma with a 54-point lead over four-time world champion Greg Anderson, is aiming to become the eighth driver to sweep the Swing and only the second Pro Stocker to accomplish the feat, joining Anderson (2004).

“We’re just taking it round-by-round,” Johnson said. “The Mopar Dodge Avenger is bad to the bone right now. We’re just having fun and enjoying the highs right now because there are a lot of lows in the sport of NHRA Drag Racing. So we’re really taking it round-by-round and enjoying it as it comes.”

Qualifying continues Saturday with sessions at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. (PDT). Sunday’s eliminations start at 11 a.m. ESPN2 will carry delayed qualifying coverage at 10:30 p.m. (EDT) Saturday and delayed finals coverage from 6-9 p.m. Sunday.

Friday’s results after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the 25th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Pacific Raceways, 15th of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.

Top Fuel _ 1. Spencer Massey, 3.837 seconds,319.60 mph; 2. Tony Schumacher, 3.837, 318.02; 3. Steve Torrence, 3.838, 319.37; 4. Shawn Langdon, 3.842, 316.23; 5. Antron Brown, 3.842, 311.63; 6. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.857, 317.34; 7. Doug Kalitta, 3.861, 309.63; 8. Morgan Lucas,3.864, 318.62; 9. David Grubnic, 3.873, 312.42; 10. Bob Vandergriff Jr., 3.906, 310.77; 11. Brandon Bernstein, 3.911, 313.44; 12. Clay Millican, 3.918, 312.78.

Not Qualified _ 13. Steven Chrisman, 4.167, 259.31; 14. Ron Smith, 4.573, 235.35; 15. Terry McMillen, 4.784, 182.67; 16. Scott Palmer, 5.488, 121.40.

Funny Car _ 1. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.119, 298.47; 2. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.121, 302.82; 3. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.125, 300.53; 4. Johnny Gray, Charger, 4.156, 300.86; 5. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.157, 296.89; 6. Mike Neff, Ford Mustang, 4.161, 297.16; 7. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.165, 293.54; 8. Jeff Arend, Camry, 4.224, 295.85; 9. John Force, Mustang, 4.232, 290.38; 10. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.244, 292.27; 11. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.263, 263.20; 12. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.266, 280.14.

Not Qualified _ 13. Courtney Force, 4.272, 262.08; 14. Gary Densham, 4.306, 289.20; 15. Joshua Crawford, 4.467, 239.31; 16. Jeff Diehl, 4.836, 178.21; 17. Todd Lesenko, 6.434, 87.70; 18. Bob Tasca III, 7.604, 87.45.

Pro Stock _ 1. Allen Johnson, Dodge Avenger,6.554, 211.66; 2. Vincent Nobile, Avenger, 6.564, 210.87; 3. Mike Edwards, Pontiac GXP, 6.573, 210.97; 4. Erica Enders, Chevy Cobalt, 6.573, 210.73; 5. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.577, 210.97; 6. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.597, 210.54; 7. V. Gaines, Avenger, 6.599, 210.70; 8. Warren Johnson, GXP, 6.599, 209.95; 9. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.603, 210.01; 10. Larry Morgan,Ford Mustang, 6.606, 209.65; 11. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Avenger, 6.612, 210.05; 12. Kurt Johnson, GXP, 6.629, 209.04.

Not Qualified _ 13. Ron Krisher, 6.637, 209.56; 14. Mark Wolfe, 6.645, 207.62; 15. Matt Hartford, 6.668, 208.55; 16. JR Carr, 17.476, 46.22.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 4 2012
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