Capps Has Become A Commercial Success
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
Topeka, Kan. – Ron Capps is one of the biggest stars in the NHRA Full Throttle drag-racing series. Twenty-eight victories, points leader in Funny Car right now, ultra-sincere smile that never leaves his face.
Yet until recently, if not invisible as a professional sports celebrity, he was at least translucent. Dinners-out with his family could go from salad right through desert without so much as a single request for an autograph.
Not so much any more. Capps has become a cross-over type guy.
Thanks, he says, to a series of television commercials he has made for his primary sponsor, NAPA auto parts.
“I can’t believe how much it’s done for putting our name out there,” Capps, sitting in his Don Schumacher Racing team’s hauler at Heartland Park Topeka, said Friday. “I get recognized way more than I ever did in he past. I know it’s because of those.”
“Those” have become some of the most popular commercials featuring athletes, on TV. They feature Capps and NASCAR driver/team owner Michael Waltrip. They feature those two drivers, who both are sponsored by NAPA, playing parlor games like 20 Questions or Pictionary against middle-class couples.
Spoiler alert – the team of Waltrip and Capps always win the games, which always, for some reason, seem to include racing questions. Go figure.
The series of commercials marks Capps’ debut into the arena.
Really, he’s asked, never made a big-time television before? You seem such a natural.
Capps fidgets in his chair, stammers and turns the volume down low.
Well, he explains, he once had a part in a movie.
Really, what movie?
The fidgeting intensifies. Stammering too.
“Well, ‘The Legend of Booger Red’ “ Capps said.
Cowboy movie, apparently. One the Academy – and most of the viewing public – seems to have somehow missed.
“I play this mean cowboy,” Capps explains.
“I get killed,” Capps said. “I got a dying scene. Awesome, man.”
How did you die?
“He knifed me. I came around this corner chasing him (Booger Red, that is) and he stabbed me. Fake blood and everything,” Capps said.
That’s a tough act to follow. Olivier would have blanched. But last year, Capps gave it shot when he was sent a script for the first NAPA commercial.
“I started laughing like crazy,” Capps said.
And as opposed to “The Legend of Booger Red” (Capps said he attempted to buy up all copies of the video after release in order to keep it out of the hands of adults and children alike), the comedy in the commercial was intentional.
The quality of the commercials stem from a couple of things. One of those is the chemistry between Capps and Waltrip.
The two had met only briefly before they teamed up in front of the cameras. But once they did meet, and then began working together, a friendship was born.
In the first commercials, Capps is identified. That is, viewers are told who the guy in the funny suit is and what he does.
In this year’s versions, producers thought they no longer needed to do that. A star was born had been born.
The commercials are done in the actual homes of real people – not the people who appear with Capps and Waltrip as those are actors.
Capps says the film crew comes in, bring tons of equipment, works for two straight days, tears up the poor people’s homes and splits. Capps wonders why people would subject their beautiful homes to all that, by the way.
“No way I would.”
In an upcoming commercial, producers made a snap decision that they needed a child to pretend to be Capps’ son, to whom he reads a bed-time story.
Production people fanned out around the neighborhood and began knocking on doors. It was a kid search. Found one, too.
“The kid got paid, got his SAG (Screen Actors Guild) card all in one day,” Capps said.
Capps has a SAG card, too. Asked if he thinks he would ever like to use it more, like for a second career, he says perhaps.
“I can see how people really get into it,” he said.
But for now, life is about the occasional commercial and driving 300 mph. Right now, he is doing the latter as well as anybody in the sport.
This weekend at Heartland Park Topeka, he will be going for his fourth victory of the season.2 Comments