Funny Cars Can’t Afford To Flop In Concord

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 12 2019
The race for the Funny Car championship is white hot as the Countdown reaches the halfway point in Concord, N.C. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CONCORD, N.C. – With five drivers embroiled in an intense battle for the NHRA Funny Car championship halfway through the Countdown, veteran Ron Capps says removing someone from his comfort zone is essential to earning the title.

“It seems like nobody wants to carry the ball,” Capps, who owns three event victories this season, said Friday at zMAX Dragway. 

Entering this weekend’s NTK NHRA Carolina Nationals, Robert Hight possessed a slim 13-point advantage over his team owner John Force. Jack Beckman was 24 points in arrears in third. Next was Capps in fourth, 44 points behind, and defending Funny Car champion J.R. Todd was fifth with a 53-point deficit.

“A stumble in the Countdown can spell disaster,” Beckman said. “If you’re eighth or lower in the Countdown and you lose in the first round at one race, I don’t think you’re going to win the championship. 

“Typically, Q1 (first qualifying round) you’re setting your power level and you want to get the car to the finish line. The idea is to get down the track so you can run really good in Q2, which typically is the best track conditions which seeds you into Sunday. We can’t look that way anymore. You’ve got to try to get three points (top qualifier for each round) every time you roll out there. I don’t see anyone running away with this thing right now.”

After second round qualifying Friday night, Beckman owned the No. 1 position with an elapsed time of 3.873 seconds. He also possessed the top speed with a pass of 334.07 mph. Hight was second, 3.878; Capps was third, 3.882; Force was fourth, 3.890, and Todd was eighth, 3.972.   

Capps says the zMAX event “always plays a pretty important part in the Countdown.” 

“Now that the NHRA has made Pomona (season finale) points and a half it kinda changes everything, especially this year with nobody running away with it,” Capps continued. “You really have to take somebody out of their comfort zone to be able to win rounds in the Countdown. You have to make a team push harder than they are used to pushing. Just talking about it makes the hair on your neck stand up because you realize how important every single point is.”

Capps noted that when he won the 2016 championship his team didn’t win an event in the Countdown, but they were consistent, putting pressure on their opponents by making it to the semi-final and final rounds.

“It was a laid-back header era. It was difficult to drive. It was difficult to tune,” Capps explained.  “You never knew if you were going to get to the finish line between the cones the way the cars handled.” 

However, zMAX doesn’t possess any idiosyncrasies like the competitors might face at other tracks.

“Some of the tracks we’ve been at the left lane may have a small bump or there might be a point in the track where you have to wait and lock the clutch up,” said Capps, who won last year’s Carolina Nationals. “You take all of that out here. There are very few tracks on the tour where we can do that. I feel like when the conditions cool off we can run with anybody.” 

After two rounds of Top Fuel qualifying, defending champion Steve Torrence was No. 1 with an E.T. of 3.711 seconds. Two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders was the fastest in that class with a 6.506-second E.T. She also posted top speed at 211.86 mph. Jerry Savoie led Pro Stock Motorcycle with an E.T. of 6.801 seconds. 

Two more rounds of qualifying are scheduled for Saturday beginning at 1:15 p.m., ET.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 12 2019
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