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Funny Car’s Capps Hoping To Party In Pomona

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, November 11 2016
Ron Capps is closing in on his first Funny Car championship. (File photo courtesy of the Mello Yello NHRA Drag Racing Series)

Ron Capps is closing in on his first Funny Car championship. (File photo courtesy of the Mello Yello NHRA Drag Racing Series)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

After all the burnouts, hole shots and explosions he has experienced during a 19-year Funny Car career, the most meaningful lap Ron Capps records Sunday at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona figures to be covered in the wrong direction…engine silent…behind a tow-car.

bugnhranotesThe return road at the famed NHRA facility will become Capps’ personal “Canyon of Heroes” if he can clinch his first world championship during the 52nd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals. Capps will take an 86-point/four-plus rounds lead over Don Schumacher Racing teammate Matt Hagan into the sixth and final event of the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.

“When you tow back at Pomona, you go right in front of the grandstands,” said Capps, a native Californian with a deep appreciation of NHRA history. “Historically, this race is packed and I’m sure we’re probably going to have a sellout like we have had at a lot of these races this year, being that it’s going to be good weather, it’s the end of the year and it’s the finals.

“I’ve already gotten the phone calls and text messages from a lot of the actor friends I know, the rock stars that I’ve gotten to know that always attend Pomona, and so far it’s kind of typical for Pomona. But I can sense that it’s a lot more people hitting me up and a lot more excitement in the air.”

That said, Capps _ a four-time championship runnerup _ is well-aware the chase is not over heading into Friday’s opening two rounds of qualifications. “We still need to get there and do our business and clinch it,” Capps said during a national teleconference. “I’ve seen some pretty miraculous things happen at Pomona over the years, and we definitely don’t want to be one of those statistics.”

Still, the resident of Carlsbad, Calif., allowed himself to envision what it would be like to celebrate in front of the many family and friends and die-hard Ron Capps fans anticipating his coronation.  

“I know a lot of my cousins, a lot of my relatives that are coming down from my hometown of San Luis Obispo, the people I’ve known since I’ve lived here in San Diego, it’s more than usual,” said Capps, 51. “So I sense it, but I’ve got good people around me. My wife (Shelley) and my cousin, Donnie, who lives right near Pomona, takes care of my ticket situations, which takes a huge load off me for Pomona. That can be a distraction when you’ve got to worry about making sure all your family is taken care of with their tickets, as easy as that sounds.

“That’s always been a big deal for me is to make sure I’ve got everybody covered that I want to make sure are covered. It’s going to be huge. It always is towing back in front of that grandstands. I get the biggest applause and people yelling. It just is such a killer feeling, man. It’s just a great feeling.”

Capps is the second-winningest driver in Funny Car history with 49 national event victories. Capps already has set career bests for most final rounds (10), most No. 1 qualifying positions (four), most elimination round-wins (53) and tied his most event titles mark (five). While Capps has won the season-opening Winternationals at Pomona three times, including this season, he will be looking to collect his first NHRA Finals trophy this weekend.

“I can’t wait,” said Capps, driver of the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T tuned by Rahn Tobler. “You know, I’m hoping we can do everything right and we can finally finish this deal and I can do it. Pomona is such an important track to me personally. I’ve driven for two legends in Don Prudhomme and Don Schumacher, and the fact that Wally Parks’ name is there when you make a run, there’s just so much history there.

“And on top of it, it’s the 50th birthday of the Funny Car; it’s been counting down all year long and it’s been fun to celebrate that all year long. We’ll have all the hitters, all my heroes, Funny Car guys probably at the track, so I just couldn’t think of a better weekend to do it.”

Capps said he and Tobler have done and re-done the math in an effort to keep themselves focused. “You know, gosh, a lot of people are saying it’s sewn-up, even on our team,” said Capps, mindful of his runnerup results in 1998, 2000, 2005 and 2012. “I just keep holding my hand out going, ‘No, stop, stop thinking that way.’ Right now it’s 86 points. We need to keep that above 80 points to be realistic and know that we’re going to for sure clinch without having any pressure of having something go wrong on Sunday.

“If we gain those qualifying points and match Hagan’s team or gain more of those qualifying points than they do, we’ll keep it above 80. And I say above 80 because then they have to go 100 to pass us, and that’s more than what’s there for Sunday at Pomona. If they gain the points and out-qualify us and get it below 80, then we obviously have to win first round to clinch it, but you just don’t know. You don’t want to assume anything.

“The good thing is Rahn Tobler is so experienced that it’s business as usual. He’s been able to reach in the window and point to me every run in qualifying and race day, and especially in Vegas, where it just _ to me I’m going up and trying to do the same thing I’ve done for 19 years, and that’s just be _ I guess be money for the team and just do the same thing every time so they can count on me and not make a mistake. So that’s what we’ve done.”

Hagan, a two-time world champion, is taking his long shot status in stride knowing a few different results during the Countdown might have meant a different story this weekend.

“If we would have won Vegas, then maybe we roll in with a licking-our-chops-type feeling, but it’s a tall order now,” said Hagan, driver of the Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Dodge.”There’s some rounds in the Countdown that just didn’t go our way. At the end of the day, I want it to be me (that wins a championship), but if it can’t be me, I’m glad it’s Capps. He was one of the first guys who picked up the phone when I joined DSR. The dude is genuine and legit and hats off to them, they’ve done a great job all year.”

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Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Del Worsham (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the season-ending event that will televised for the first time on FOX Sports 1. On Sunday, FS1 will air three hours of live finals coverage starting at 4 p.m. (EST).

In Top Fuel, DSR’s Antron Brown clinched his second straight world championship and third overall in his Matco Tools/U.S. Army dragster at the 16th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Brown will try to end his banner year with his eighth win in 2016 at Pomona.

Two Pro Stock world champions _ Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro teammates Greg Anderson and Jason Line _ remain in a tight points battle. Line, a two-time world champion, and his eight wins are leading four-time champ Anderson by just 19 points/one round of racing.

 In Pro Stock Motorcycle, one of the trio of five-time/reigning world champion Andrew Hines, three-time champ Krawiec and Jerry Savoie will be crowned 2016 champion. Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson teammates Hines and Krawiec are tied for the point lead, while Savoie’s win in Vegas has him just three points back aboard his Savoie’s Alligator Farm Suzuki.

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Funny Car driver Alexis DeJoria will sit-out the season ending Auto Club NHRA Finals due to a concussion suffered during the event in Las Vegas two weekends ago. Veteran Jeff Arend will drive the Tequila Patron Toyota Camry at Pomona, Calif.

DeJoria, 10th in Countdown points, opted to not compete in Sunday’s elimination rounds at Vegas following an incident in Saturday’s third round of qualifying. Past the finish line, DeJoria experienced a series of mechanical malfunctions that caused her car to careen uncontrollably across the racetrack and make contact with the left retaining wall. DeJoria’s head whipped hard into the left roll cage head pad as a result of the collision. DeJoria exited the vehicle unassisted and initially felt fine. However, she woke the next morning experiencing concussion-like symptoms.

Upon returning to her home in Austin, Texas, DeJoria was evaluated by medical professionals at Texas Sport and Family Medicine and was diagnosed with a concussion. DeJoria’s treating physicians ruled her out of the final event of the 2016 season.

“I underwent a series of cognitive tests and the doctors diagnosed me with a full-blown concussion that required me to step away from the seat for the time being,” said DeJoria, who missed two races earlier in the season due to a fractured pelvis, also caused by a side-impact crash. “It takes two weeks for these symptoms to subside and even then, because of the trauma from the concussion, it would be unsafe for me to race this weekend. To go out and get behind the wheel of a 10,000-horsepower race car with its high G-forces and the possibility of tire shake would be too traumatic for my head in its sensitive state.”

Arend drove the Kalitta Motorsports DHL Funny Car during DeJoria’s rookie season and worked alongside current DHL Funny Car driver Del Worsham, the reigning world champion, to assist DeJoria in obtaining her Funny Car license in 2011.

Doctors also have ordered DeJoria to abstain from flying until she has experienced full recovery. “It’s going to be hard for me not to be there but I’m thinking long-term,” said DeJoria, a four-time Funny Car national event winner. “I need to get myself healthy and focus on coming back strong next year.”

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Original Mooneyes dragster graphics will adorn the Jim Dunn Racing Funny Car this weekend at the NHRA Auto Club Finals. Graphics on the side of the Mooneyes Funny Car body are derived from the famous Mooneyes dragster of the 1960’s. The design features the Dragmaster Chassis with a small block Chevy engine, Moon/Potvin front mounted supercharger and Hilborn Injection.

The Mooneyes dragster originally raced at the NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis in 1961, and won the A/Dragster class on a 9.52-second quarter-mile elapsed time at 153.06 mph during the 1962 Winternationals in Pomona.  The Mooneyes dragster was piloted by a list of drivers led by Dante Duece and Gary Cagle.  In 1963, sponsored by Revell, the Mooneyes dragster was among several race cars that toured in England and recorded a 9.99-second elapsed time at 164 mph top speed.

The original Mooneyes dragster is housed at the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Fla., while a replica will be on display in the Nostalgia Corral in Pomona.

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Two finalists for the 50 years of Funny Car have been selected by NHRA fans _ the iconic 1973 Chevy Vega driven by “Jungle Jim” Liberman and the 1996 Castrol Pontiac Firebird driven by John “Brute” Force. The winner will be announced during the Auto Club NHRA Finals this weekend. 

AUTO CLUB NHRA FINALS FACT SHEET

TELEVISION

Fox Sports 1 will televise one hour of live qualifying coverage Friday at 11:30 p.m. (EST). On Sunday, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 11:30 a.m. (EST) and three hours of live finals coverage starting at 4 p.m.

MOST VICTORIES

John Force, Funny Car, 8; Kenny Bernstein, Top Fuel/Funny Car, 6; Greg Anderson, Pro Stock, 5; Bob Glidden, Pro Stock, 5; John Myers, Pro Stock Motorcycle, 5; Warren Johnson, Pro Stock, 4; Dave Schultz, Pro Stock Motorcycle, 4; Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel, 4.

TRACK RECORDS

Top Fuel _ 3.700-seconds by Shawn Langdon, Feb. ’14 and 332.34 mph by Langdon, Nov. ’15

Funny Car _ 3.884-seconds by Jack Beckman, Nov. ’15 and 331.45 by Matt Hagan, Nov. ’15

Pro Stock _ 6.480-seconds by Erica Enders, Nov. ’14 and 213.84 mph by Drew Skillman, Nov. ’15

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 6.766-seconds by Andrew Hines, Nov. ’12; 198.29 mph by Eddie Krawiec, Nov. ’12

 NATIONAL RECORDS

Top Fuel _ 3.671-seconds by Steve Torrence, July ’16, Sonoma, Calif.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.

Funny Car _ 3.822-seconds by Matt Hagan, Aug. ’16, Brainerd, Minn.; 335.57 mph by Hagan, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.

Pro Stock _ 6.455-seconds by Jason Line, March ’15, Concord, N.C.;  215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 6.728-seconds by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.88 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March ’15, Concord, N.C.

POINT STANDINGS

Top-10 competitors following the 16th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the 23rd of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel _1.  Antron Brown, 2,581*; 2.  Steve Torrence, 2,424; 3.  Doug Kalitta, 2,413; 4.  Brittany Force, 2,366; 5.  Shawn Langdon, 2,365; 6.  J.R. Todd, 2,352; 7.  Leah Pritchett, 2,334; 8.  Tony Schumacher, 2,332; 9.  Clay Millican, 2,232; 10.  Richie Crampton, 2,227.

 Funny Car _ 1.  Ron Capps, 2,546; 2.  Matt Hagan, 2,460; 3.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,433; 4.  Jack Beckman, 2,395; 5.  John Force, 2,387; 6.  Del Worsham, 2,373; 7.  Courtney Force, 2,334; 8.  Robert Hight, 2,313; 9.  Tim Wilkerson, 2,262; 10.  Alexis DeJoria, 2,184.

Pro Stock _ 1.  Jason Line, 2,532; 2.  Greg Anderson, 2,513; 3.  Shane Gray, 2,438; 4.  Vincent Nobile, 2,394; 5.  Drew Skillman, 2,371; 6.  Bo Butner, 2,369; 7.  Chris McGaha, 2,275; 8.  Allen Johnson, 2,245; 9.  Jeg Coughlin Jr., 2,177; 10.  Erica Enders, 2,167.

 Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1.  (tie) Andrew Hines, 2,509; Eddie Krawiec, 2,509; 3.  Jerry Savoie, 2,506; 4.  Angelle Sampey, 2,399; 5.  Chip Ellis, 2,359; 6.  LE Tonglet, 2,340; 7.  Cory Reed, 2,281; 8.  Matt Smith, 2,277; 9.  Hector Arana, 2,245; 10.  Hector Arana Jr., 2,236.

* Clinched Top Fuel Championship

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, November 11 2016
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