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Capps Looking Good To Cap Off Funny Car Season With A Championship

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 12 2016
Ron Capps looks to be a strong bet to win this year's NHRA Funny Car championship this weekend in Pomona. (File photo courtesy of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series)

Ron Capps looks to be a strong bet to win this year’s NHRA Funny Car championship this weekend in Pomona. (File photo courtesy of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series)

Ron Capps is off to a near-perfect start in the bid to clinch his first NHRA Funny Car world championship, a career-defining moment that could be realized and celebrated Saturday.

Capps bagged valuable qualifying points while Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman sprinted into the provisional lead Friday during the opening two rounds of time trials for the 52nd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif.

Capps was quickest in the opening round under clear skies and temperatures in the mid-80s with a then track-record 1,000-foot elapsed time of 3.883-seconds at 323.66 mph to earn three bonus points.  That run allowed Capps to extend his lead to 89 points/four-plus rounds of racing over DSR teammate Matt Hagan, a two-time world champion who lost traction early in his first run, and 114 points over DSR’s Tommy Johnson Jr., who was second-quickest.

 Although Capps lost traction during the second session and Hagan roared to a 3.894-second run, neither gained bonus points in the round. A four-time championship runnerup and the winningest Funny Car driver without a championship, Capps can clinch the title at his home track by ending Saturday’s two rounds with an insurmountable lead of 81 points.

“This is just another day that shows how good of a crew chief (Rahn) Tobler is,” said Capps, driver of the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T. “Our NAPA team has been aggressive all year and that’s why we’re in the position we are. Tobler went out and ran a 3.883 in the hottest part of the day then we smoked the tires because he stayed aggressive. We’ll be the same way tomorrow and Sunday.”

Beckman raced to the provisional pole via a 3.865-second pass at 332.84 mph in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge. “Fast Jack” set both ends of the track record with the performance. Beckman has five poles this year and 20 in his career.

“It was an amazing run,” said Beckman, a two-time 2016 event-winner and the 2012 world champ. “We had hot conditions all day but us running the new track records is a testament to how fast the Funny Car category has gotten as a whole this entire season.”

Sixteen-time world champ John Force, who won his fourth race of the season two weeks ago in Las Vegas, is second with a 3.880-second pass at 330.72 mph in his PEAK Antifreeze Chevy Camaro SS, while Capps’ 3.883 at 323.66 in the first session put him in the third spot. JFR’s Robert Hight, the 2009 world champion, is fourth and Hagan is fifth.

Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders in their respective categories at the 24th and final event of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. The Auto Club NHRA Finals marks the conclusion of the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

In Top Fuel, newly crowned 2016 series champion Brown continued his dominance by racing to the provisional lead with a 1,000-foot pass in 3.713-seconds at 326.56 mph in his Matco Tools dragster. Brown clinched his third world title two weekends ago in Vegas. The DSR star has three poles this season and 47 in his career. Brown has tallied seven victories in 11 final-round appearances this year.

“At the end of the day, it’s all for the love of this sport,” said Brown, a back-to-back world champ. “All the teams come out here, not because they want a lot of money or for the attention, it’s for the love of the sport. We were able to sneak back into the No. 1 spot and the whole field is so tight right now. This kind of field is what you want to see all of next year. We got our work cut out for us this weekend and it feels good to get this Matco Tools car to the No. 1 spot.”

Steve Torrence currently is qualified second at 3.716-seconds and 326.95 mph in his Capco Contractors/Torrence Racing dragster. Torrence has three wins this season, including the season-opening Winternationals at Pomona in February. Phoenix-area winner Leah Pritchett is third with a 3.726-second pass at 328.62 mph in her FireAde dragster. Shawn Langdon, the 2013 world champ who won both events at Auto Club Raceway in 2015, is fourth while eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher is fifth.

Pro Stock point-leader Jason Line sprinted to the top spot with a quarter-mile pass in 6.565-seconds at 211.16 mph in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro. Line has seven poles this year, 48 in his career and four at the Auto Club NHRA Finals. The two-time world champion has a 20-point lead over second-place Greg Anderson, his Ken Black Racing teammate.

“It’ll be fun to watch and really nerve-wracking for Greg and me,” said Line, an eight-time 2016 event- winner. “Maybe we’ll be duking it out on Sunday. It was a nice run but could’ve been better, to be honest with you. There’s a little left. I think the racetrack will continue to get better over the weekend and you’ll see all of us go faster. Tomorrow should be interesting.”

Anderson provisionally qualified second at 6.575-seconds and 210.70 mph in his Summit Racing Equipment Camaro. Anderson is a four-time world champion and seven-time 2016 event-winner. Bo Butner, also of Ken Black Racing, posted a 6.580-second pass at 210.37 mph in his Jim Butner Auto Camaro and sits in the third spot. St. Louis-area winner Alex Laughlin and Gray Motorsports teammate/recent Vegas winner Shane Gray are fourth and fifth, respectively.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Savoie rode his White Alligator Racing Suzuki to the provisional No. 1 spot with a quarter-mile pass in 6.844-seconds at 195.93 mph. Savoie won at the most recent event in Las Vegas from pole and also posted a No. 1 at Texas Motorplex in Ennis, in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Savoie has seven poles in his career and one at Auto Club Raceway, which came at the Finals one year ago.

Savoie entered the weekend three points behind Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson teammates Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines, who were tied. Savoie now has a one-point lead over Krawiec, a three-time world champion, and a three-point advantage over five-time/reigning champ Hines.

“We got a little aggressive on that first run and thought the track conditions were a little better, and same thing on the second run,” said Savoie, who rode off into the sand trap in the second qualifying session. “We got all the wheels off and the bike is completely stripped down besides the engine. The way this bike is sealed up, it was kind of hard for any rocks to get inside the engine compartment. I’ll keep my composure and on Sunday we’ll go do our thing.”

Hector Arana Jr. currently is qualified second with a 6.857-second pass at 195.65 mph aboard his Lucas Oil Buell. He is followed by Krawiec in third with a 6.858-second pass at 195.53 mph aboard his Harley V-Rod. Krawiec is a five-time 2016 event-winner and has raced to the final round at the Auto Club NHRA Finals for eight consecutive years. Hines provisionally is qualified eighth.

Qualifying will conclude Saturday with the last two sessions of the season. Fox Sports 1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage Sunday at 11:30 a.m. (EST) and three hours of live finals coverage starting at 4 p.m.

Friday’s qualifying results after the first two of four rounds of time trials for the 52nd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona (Calif.), the last of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.  Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations:

Top Fuel _ 1. Antron Brown, 3.713-seconds, 326.56 mph; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.716, 326.95; 3. Leah Pritchett, 3.726, 328.62; 4. Shawn Langdon, 3.729, 325.14; 5. Tony Schumacher, 3.734, 325.22; 6. J.R. Todd, 3.739, 324.36; 7. Wayne Newby, 3.766, 326.79; 8. Brittany Force, 3.770, 322.19; 9. Terry McMillen, 3.792, 323.89; 10. Tripp Tatum, 3.815, 313.95; 11. Morgan Lucas, 3.892, 293.03; 12. Shawn Reed, 3.921, 303.78.

Not Qualified _ 13. Richie Crampton, 4.118, 208.39; 14. Terry Haddock, 4.186, 224.88; 15. Troy Buff, 4.316, 187.36; 16. Doug Kalitta, 4.704, 142.29; 17. Steve Faria, 5.367, 103.02; 18. Clay Millican, 5.531, 121.35.

Funny Car _ 1. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.865, 332.84; 2. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.880, 330.72; 3. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.883, 323.66; 4. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.889, 329.75; 5. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.894, 329.83; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.918, 288.15; 7. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.920, 328.38; 8. Jeff Arend, Toyota Camry, 3.930, 317.19; 9. Paul Lee, Camry, 3.935, 324.83; 10. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.953, 316.67; 11. John Bojec, Camry, 4.029, 301.00; 12. Gary Densham, Mustang, 4.071, 268.33.

Not Qualified _ 13. Jon Capps, 4.093, 254.81; 14. Cruz Pedregon, 4.233, 226.20; 15. John Hale, 4.261, 214.93; 16. Anthony Begley, 4.309, 233.96; 17. Bob Bode, 4.490, 199.35; 18. Dave Richards, 4.611, 182.90; 19. Brandon Welch, 4.775, 185.64; 20. Chad Head, 5.583, 127.23; 21. Del Worsham, 5.979, 118.36; 22. Jim Campbell, broke.

Pro Stock _ 1. Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.565, 211.16; 2. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.575, 210.70; 3. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.580, 210.44; 4. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.587, 210.83; 5. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.594, 210.47; 6. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.597, 210.50; 7. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.601, 209.82; 8. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.602, 210.37; 9. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.621, 209.69; 10. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Dart, 6.622, 208.33; 11. Aaron Strong, Camaro, 6.642, 208.20; 12. Erica Enders, Dart, 6.645, 209.01.

Not Qualified _ 13. Alan Prusiensky, 6.655, 208.07; 14. Kenny Delco, 6.664, 208.39; 15. Matt Hartford, 6.666, 208.55; 16. Deric Kramer, 6.677, 206.86; 17. Joey Grose, 6.941, 196.56.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.844, 195.93; 2. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.857, 195.65; 3. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.858, 195.53; 4. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.861, 195.73; 5. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.870, 196.82; 6. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.872, 194.49; 7. Melissa Surber, Buell, 6.879, 193.71; 8. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.886, 195.00; 9. Cory Reed, Buell, 6.911, 192.80; 10. Freddie Camarena, Suzuki, 6.916, 195.39; 11. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.917, 193.74; 12. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.919, 192.47.

Not Qualified _ 13. Angie Smith, 6.922, 193.82; 14. LE Tonglet, 6.927, 195.48; 15. Matt Smith, 6.941, 193.99; 16. Jim Underdahl, 6.964, 193.60; 17. Shawn Gann, 6.979, 192.44; 18. Karen Stoffer, 7.007, 192.85; 19. Chaz Kennedy, 7.023, 190.40; 20. Gunner Courtney, 7.080, 186.36; 21. Scott Bottorff, 7.092, 187.99; 22. Luke Crowley, 7.120, 192.00; 23. Lance Bonham, 7.161, 185.66.


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 12 2016
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