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Funny Car Fracas Heats Way Up In Las Vegas

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 29 2012

Ron Capps has turned the Funny Car championship into tight, two-car competition. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Teammates Ron Capps and Jack Beckman are taking their intramural squabble for the 2012 NHRA Funny Car world championship to the end of the line, in what promises to be two weeks of 24/7 obsessing at Don Schumacher Racing.

Capps posted his Full Throttle Drag Racing Series-best fifth Funny Car victory of the season Sunday by beating Beckman in the final round of the 12th annual Big O Tires NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The victory pulled Capps to within four points of the lead (2,531-2,527) in a bid for the first championship of his 15-year professional drag racing career.

“To go up there and beat Jack was huge,” Capps said after recording his best 1,000-foot pass of the weekend at 4.070-seconds and 315.12 mph to easily beat Beckman, whose car lost traction and spun its rear tires. “We’re both fighting for that first championship ring. I wake up in the morning thinking about it and go to bed thinking about it. And we’re close.”

Capps and the NAPA Auto Parts/Carlyle Tools Dodge Charger R/T, tuned by crew chief Rahn Tobler, dominated during eliminations of the fifth of sixth events in the Countdown to the Championship. “It showed how this team can battle back,” said Capps, who began the weekend 23 points behind Beckman. “Qualifying was tough, and again Rahn kept saying, ‘We’re all right, we’re all right. We’re just sneaking up on it.’^”

Bob Vandergriff Jr. (Top Fuel), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners in the season’s penultimate race.

Capps’ day started when he beat two-time world champion Tony Pedregon in the first round and then eliminated brother Cruz, another two-time world champ, in the second round. In the semifinals, Capps beat DSR teammate Johnny Gray. Capps struggled while qualifying eighth-quickest in the 16-car field. But the Californian, a three-time series point-runnerup, improved on each run by going 4.105, 4.095 and 4.086 before trailering Beckman.

“Our win over Cruz in the second round might be one we look back on as our biggest of the season,” said Capps , whose 38th career win broke him out of a tie with Top Fuel teammate Anton Brown on the all-time list. “Cruz ran (4.06) in the first round and we didn’t have lane-choice against him. I don’t think we were very comfortable about being able to throw down a 4.09, like Rahn did. That was unbelievable. And then to come back with a 4.08 and 4.07…it’s a fun car to drive and to take to Pomona.”

Championships in all four professional classes will be decided during the 48th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Pomona, Nov. 8-11.

“Right now we’re four points ahead,” said Beckman, driver of the Battery eXtender Powered by Schumacher Electric/Valvoline NextGen Dodge. “But four points is the same as 20 points for winning a round in eliminations, so in a sense we’re a round ahead right now.

“We had an off-weekend. Our car didn’t respond to a lot of the changes on Sunday and we still went to the final round. The nice thing is that we went from having a remote chance when we were almost 100 points (96) behind (Capps) to now having as good as chance as anybody to win the championship. I’m excited to get to Pomona. I think we’ll figure out what was ailing our car, and Pomona is our kind of racetrack.”

Meanwhile, Vandergriff Jr. earned his second career Top Fuel victory with a 1,000-foot pass of 3.832-seconds at 324.75 mph in his C& J Energy Services dragster, defeating seven-time world champion Tony Schumacher in the final.

“We’ve had a great race car all weekend,” said Vandergriff, who scored his breakthrough win at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis in September 2011. “It’s been a year since my last win, and we certainly didn’t think it would take that long to win again. Everybody said this next one comes easy. Well, I think they’re full of it because they don’t come easy. That’s just a great job by the guys. We made four great runs. First round was a little tough. It got hot out there, but other than that, our car was pretty flawless.”

The Top Fuel championship landscape changed a bit when series point-leader Brown lost to Al-Anabi Racing’s Khalid alBalooshi in Round 1 after his Matco Tools dragster encountered engine issues midway down the track. DSR teammate Spencer Massey, driver of the FRAM/Prestone dragster, was defeated by Vandergriff in the quarterfinals. With his runnerup finish, Schumacher moved past Massey into second, 65 points back of Brown.

In Pro Stock, Johnson continued his domination, winning his sixth event of the season and 15th of his career with a quarter-mile performance of 6.637-seconds at 208.17 mph in his Team Mopar/J&J Racing Dodge Avenger to outrun Vincent Nobile in the final. Johnson increased his Countdown point-lead to 126 over defending champ Jason Line.

“The Mopar Dodge Avenger has just been so consistent,” Johnson said. “Consistency is what we’ve preached all year, and today, how was that for consistency with four 6.63s in the heat of the day? The crew is doing an awesome job, and to cushion that point lead there to where we feel a little bit more comfortable at Pomona is great.”

GK Motorsports driver Erica Enders was defeated in Round 2 by eventual runnerup Nobile and his Mountain View Tire Dodge. With the loss, Enders was mathematically eliminated from title contention.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson rider Krawiec earned his ninth win of the season after defeating Matt Smith with a quarter-mile pass of 6.959-seconds at 194.10 mph.

“I’m just really excited, really happy, and very proud to be part of the Harley-Davidson team,” said Krawiec, the two-time/reigning world champion. “You know these guys support me 100 percent and give me awesome equipment to make sure I get up-and-down the track. You know, I have to do my job, and I tried that this weekend. I knew I was going to have a tough round and a tough opponent against Matt Smith in the final. I really had to step up my game and I didn’t want to leave a whole lot of leeway.”

Krawiec increased his series lead to 111 points over V-Rod teammate Andrew Hines, who lost in the second round.

Final finish order (1-16) at the 12th annual Big O Tires NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The race is the 22nd of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.

Top Fuel _1. Bob Vandergriff Jr.; 2. Tony Schumacher; 3. Khalid alBalooshi; 4. Doug Kalitta; 5. Steve Torrence; 6. Spencer Massey; 7. Shawn Langdon; 8. J.R. Todd; 9. Cory McClenathan; 10. Brandon Bernstein; 11. T.J. Zizzo; 12. Terry McMillen; 13. Morgan Lucas; 14. Antron Brown; 15. David Grubnic; 16. Clay Millican.

Funny Car _ 1. Ron Capps; 2. Jack Beckman; 3. Courtney Force; 4. Johnny Gray; 5. Cruz Pedregon; 6. Paul Lee; 7. Matt Hagan; 8. Mike Neff; 9. John Force; 10. Bob Tasca III; 11. Jeff Arend; 12. Jim Head; 13. Tony Pedregon; 14. Robert Hight; 15. Tim Wilkerson; 16. Jon Capps.

Pro Stock _1. Allen Johnson; 2. Vincent Nobile; 3. Ron Krisher; 4. Jason Line; 5. Erica Enders; 6. Mike Edwards; 7. Jeg Coughlin Jr.; 8. Warren Johnson; 9. V. Gaines; 10. Chris McGaha; 11. Shane Gray; 12. Kurt Johnson; 13. Deric Kramer; 14. Greg Anderson; 15. JR Carr; 16. Rodger Brogdon.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _1. Eddie Krawiec; 2. Matt Smith; 3. John Hall; 4. Hector Arana; 5. Karen Stoffer; 6. Scotty Pollacheck; 7. Andrew Hines; 8. Hector Arana Jr.; 9. LE Tonglet; 10. Chip Ellis; 11. Jim Underdahl; 12. Redell Harris; 13. GT Tonglet; 14. Steve Johnson; 15. Shawn Gann; 16. Michael Ray.

Sunday’s final results from the 12th annual Big O Tires NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

Top Fuel _ Bob Vandergriff Jr., 3.832 seconds, 324.75 mph def. Tony Schumacher, 5.543 seconds, 124.25 mph.

Funny Car _ Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.070, 315.12 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 8.455, 74.33.

Pro Stock _ Allen Johnson, Dodge Avenger, 6.637, 208.17 def. Vincent Nobile, Avenger, 6.670, 204.39.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.959, 194.10 def. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.967, 192.28.

Top Alcohol Dragster _ Jim Whiteley, 5.340, 270.70 def. Joey Severance, 5.363, 266.21.

Top Alcohol Funny Car _ Tony Bartone, Ford Mustang, 5.546, 261.78 def. Annie Whiteley, Mustang, 5.576, 259.26.

Competition Eliminator _ Bo Butner, Chevy Cobalt, 8.540, 158.39 def. Lou Ficco, Pontiac GXP, 7.010, 196.22.

Super Stock _ Dan Fletcher, Chevy Camaro, 10.476, 122.98 def. Larry Stewart, Dodge Challenger, 10.224, 125.92.

Stock Eliminator _ Bo Butner, Ford Mustang, 9.212, 146.97 def. Jeff Teuton, Dodge Challenger, 11.133, 120.19.

Super Comp _ Luke Bogacki, Dragster, 9.081, 174.41 def. Greg Boutte, Dragster, 9.087, 177.42.

Super Gas _ Steve Apted, Chevy Corvette, 10.052, 164.63 def. Steve Williams, Corvette, 10.047, 165.50.

Final round-by-round results from the 12th annual Big O Tires NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

Top Fuel

Round 1 _Shawn Langdon, 3.802, 323.19 def. Clay Millican, 8.583, 87.08; J.R. Todd, 3.826, 322.11 def. Brandon Bernstein, 3.950, 301.13; Doug Kalitta, 3.822, 326.32 def. Cory McClenathan, 3.868, 303.43; Spencer Massey, 3.809, 325.14 def. T.J. Zizzo, 4.258, 208.17; Tony Schumacher, 3.788, 326.32 def. Terry McMillen, 4.280, 197.25; Bob Vandergriff Jr., 3.971, 258.67 def. David Grubnic, 5.025, 137.92; Steve Torrence, 4.102, 264.03 def. Morgan Lucas, 4.536, 232.63; Khalid alBalooshi, 4.470, 241.07 def. Antron Brown, 4.591, 239.27;

Quarterfinals _ alBalooshi, 3.816, 312.93 def. Todd, 4.591, 155.20; Vandergriff Jr., 3.851, 321.42 def. Massey, 3.873, 322.34; Kalitta, 4.139, 264.70 def. Langdon, 4.387, 210.31; Schumacher, 3.847, 324.67 def. Torrence, 3.859, 319.37;

Semifinals _ Vandergriff Jr., 3.841, 322.19 def. Kalitta, 3.854, 324.75; Schumacher, 3.773, 326.24 def. alBalooshi, 3.842, 324.05;

Final _ Vandergriff Jr., 3.832, 324.75 def. Schumacher, 5.543, 124.25.

Funny Car

Round 1 _ Courtney Force, Ford Mustang, 4.139, 309.42 def. Jim Head, Toyota Solara, 4.576, 237.13; Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.213, 298.80 def. Jon Capps, Charger, 10.637, 76.37; Paul Lee, Charger, 4.180, 299.13 def. Robert Hight, Mustang, 5.205, 151.61; Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.064, 299.66 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.157, 307.86; Mike Neff, Mustang, 4.118, 313.44 def. Jeff Arend, Camry, 4.208, 304.19; Johnny Gray, Charger, 4.110, 304.74 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 5.742, 122.99; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.115, 308.21 def. John Force, Mustang, 4.152, 309.13; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.105, 310.77 def. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.625, 187.68;

Quarterfinals _ C. Force, 4.128, 312.42 def. Lee, 4.205, 283.97; Beckman, 4.174, 300.26 def. Neff, 4.825, 174.89; R. Capps, 4.095, 312.28 def. C. Pedregon, 4.119, 306.05; Gray, 4.213, 299.46 def. Hagan, 4.601, 173.87;

Semifinals _ Beckman, 7.278, 91.44 def. C. Force, foul; R. Capps, 4.086, 311.92 def. Gray, 6.256, 103.94;

Final _R. Capps, 4.070, 315.12 def. Beckman, 8.455, 74.33.

Pro Stock

Round 1 _ Warren Johnson, Pontiac GXP, 6.715, 206.20 def. V. Gaines, Dodge Avenger, 6.687, 207.30; Jeg Coughlin Jr., Avenger, 6.696, 205.98 def. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 10.066, 90.77; Ron Krisher, GXP, 6.660, 206.92 def. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 14.030, 57.87; Erica Enders, Chevy Cobalt, 6.640, 207.94 def. Kurt Johnson, GXP, 6.732, 206.32; Mike Edwards, GXP, 6.637, 207.85 def. JR Carr, Ford Mustang, 13.003, 65.26; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.636, 208.42 def. Shane Gray, GXP, 6.695, 206.76; Allen Johnson, Avenger, 6.630, 207.85 def. Deric Kramer, Avenger, 6.735, 204.82; Vincent Nobile, Avenger, 6.632, 207.66 def. Chris McGaha, Avenger, 6.688, 205.41;

Quarterfinals _ Krisher, 6.708, 206.70 def. Edwards, 6.663, 208.04; Line, 6.996, 206.64 def. W. Johnson, 13.625, 62.43; Nobile, 6.649, 207.46 def. Enders, 6.655, 207.72; A. Johnson, 6.630, 207.98 def. Coughlin Jr., 7.020, 166.60;

Semifinals _ Nobile, 6.665, 207.46 def. Line, foul; A. Johnson, 6.631, 208.20 def. Krisher, 6.654, 207.34;

Final _ A. Johnson, 6.637, 208.17 def. Nobile, 6.670, 204.39.

Pro Stock Motorcycle

Round 1 _ Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.999, 189.71 def. Chip Ellis, Buell, foul; Hector Arana, Buell, 6.988, 191.19 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.114, 188.81; Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.021, 190.92 def. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 7.016, 191.46; John Hall, Buell, 7.023, 189.68 def. Michael Ray, Buell, foul; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 14.469, 39.00 def. Shawn Gann, Buell, foul; Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.985, 192.25 def. Redell Harris, Buell, foul; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.938, 194.02 def. GT Tonglet, Suzuki, 7.089, 189.82; Matt Smith, Buell, 6.945, 191.27 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.030, 191.19;

Quarterfinals _ Hall, 7.052, 188.75 def. Hines, 7.082, 189.52; Arana, 7.001, 192.19 def. Arana Jr., 9.247, 93.99; Smith, 6.973, 191.84 def. Stoffer, 6.994, 192.14; Krawiec, 6.961, 193.90 def. Pollacheck, 7.005, 189.90;

Semifinals _ Smith, 6.997, 192.41 def. Arana, 15.074, 34.51; Krawiec, 6.960, 194.02 def. Hall, foul;

Final _ Krawiec, 6.959, 194.10 def. Smith, 6.967, 192.28.

Point standings (top 10) following the 12th annual Big O Tires NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

Top Fuel _1. Antron Brown, 2,522; 2. Tony Schumacher, 2,457; 3. Spencer Massey, 2,452; 4. Shawn Langdon, 2,406; 5. Brandon Bernstein, 2,336; 6. Doug Kalitta, 2,309; 7. Morgan Lucas, 2,299; 8. Steve Torrence, 2,265; 9. Bob Vandergriff Jr., 2,264; 10. David Grubnic, 2,225.

Funny Car _1. Jack Beckman, 2,531; 2. Ron Capps, 2,527; 3. Mike Neff, 2,443; 4. Johnny Gray, 2,323; 5. Cruz Pedregon, 2,307; 6. Courtney Force, 2,293; 7. (tie) John Force, 2,249; Robert Hight, 2,249; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 2,241; 10. Jeff Arend, 2,211.

Pro Stock _1. Allen Johnson, 2,630; 2. Jason Line, 2,504; 3. Erica Enders, 2,433; 4. Vincent Nobile, 2,419; 5. Greg Anderson, 2,305; 6. Mike Edwards, 2,274; 7. V. Gaines, 2,268; 8. Jeg Coughlin Jr., 2,239; 9. Ron Krisher, 2,237; 10. Larry Morgan, 2,167.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _1. Eddie Krawiec, 2,672; 2. Andrew Hines, 2,561; 3. Hector Arana Jr., 2,448; 4. Hector Arana, 2,399; 5. Karen Stoffer, 2,334; 6. Matt Smith, 2,293; 7. Michael Ray, 2,285; 8. Scotty Pollacheck, 2,262; 9. LE Tonglet, 2,217; 10. Shawn Gann, 2,208.

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 29 2012
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