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Capps Picks Up Third Top Qualifying Spot of 2009

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 12 2009
Ron Capps had  a solid night Saturday at Bandimere. (NHRA photo)

Ron Capps had a solid night Saturday at Bandimere. (NHRA photo)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Funny Car star Ron Capps says the in-house chassis program at Don Schumacher Racing is poised to make serious noise during the second half of the NHRA season.

Case in point, final-round qualifying Saturday for the 30th annual Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway. Capps raced to his third No. 1 qualifying position of 2009, and 10th of his career, with a run in 4.121-seconds at 297.22 mph. Capps, driver of the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger, edged two-time NHRA champion Tony Pedregon’s best lap at 4.135-seconds in his Q-Horsepower Chevrolet Impala.

Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also will lead their respective pro categories into Sunday’s eliminations in Morrison, Colo., for Round 13 of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. This is the first event of the annual three-race “Western Swing.” Capps is third in Funny Car championship points, 25 behind leader Ashley Force Hood but only seven behind Pedregon.

Capps made what proved to be the clinching 1,000-foot pass under warmer yet somewhat overcast conditions during the third of four rounds. Capps held the top spot through the final round of qualifying in the dark, despite a loss of traction on that pass. His previous laps included a 4.937/158.22 (No. 9), 5.470/129.31 (No. 11), and 17.277/21.85 in his final try.

Qualifying began to look like a Don Schumacher Racing one-two-three before the final pairing, with Capps leading the way, followed by teammates Matt Hagan and Jack Beckman. But Pedregon, racing in the opposite lane to Capps, pulled out a 4.135-second/294.50 mph pass to move into second.

”It’s a tribute to Don (Schumacher, team-owner), who has put together a full shop (in Brownsburg, Ind.), which is something out of the ordinary for a drag-race team,” Capps said. “We have in-house chassis builders now. These are all-new DSR chassis, and it’s kind of cool to be able to say, ‘I want to thank the guys back at the shop,’ like the NASCAR guys do.”

In addition, Capps knows he can rely on veteran tuner Ed “The Ace” McCulloch to get his Dodge from Point A to Point B.

“There’s been a change in Ace this year,” Capps said of the former Funny Car star. “He has the eye of the tiger and wants to rip everyone’s throats out during qualifying. We looked back at all the points we lost in qualifying last year, and we lost several rounds worth of them. What’s cool is that Ace can go for it during qualifying, but he can still go back to the approach of getting the car down the track that helps during hot conditions.

“The incremental numbers [showed that] we were quicker than any other car out there on both runs Friday, but it just wasn’t making a pass at a certain point on the track. Ace needed to fix that and he did earlier today and it ran the 4.121, but it was trying to do that the last couple of days. And then we had nothing to lose in the last run. We knew Tony Pedregon was going to hop-it-up, which he did, and we knew we were going to try to run an .07 or .08, and obviously it didn’t hold.”
All four qualifying sessions were held in early evening and in the dark, with eliminations beginning at noon (MT) today. “I would like to know a good weatherman right now, because I don’t know what (Sunday) is going to be,” Capps said. “If it’s going to be cloudy, then, yeah, we feel pretty comfortable.”

Capps will face Gary Densham in the opening round of eliminations.

Brown, the points-leader in Top Fuel, claimed his fifth No. 1 position of the season, crossing the finish line in 3.862-seconds at 318.39 mph in his Matco Tools Dragster. Brown will meet Rob Passey in the opening round of eliminations.

“We broke a belt before the finish line,” Brown lamented. “Our half-track numbers were great, so it might have gone 319 or 320 mph if it stayed together. Our team is just having so much fun out here. Hats off to everyone on the Bandimere crew, because this is easily one of the best tracks I’ve ever driven on. We threw everything at it, and it still wouldn’t spin the tires. It’s like Disneyland right now. It’s too bad that it will be warmer (today).”

Edwards earned his seventh No. 1 qualifying position of the season in Pro Stock, powering his ART/Young Life Pontiac GXP to a track record performance of 6.957-seconds at 197.71 mph. He will face Mark Buehring in the opening round.

“It’s very rewarding to come out here and qualify No. 1,” said Edwards, who will be aiming for his sixth consecutive final-round appearance. “Our program has really turned around this year. We lost a handle on it a little bit (Friday), but our team worked hard and got it back. I feel tickled and blessed. I feel bad for (Allen Johnson), because he had transmission trouble on his last run, and it’s his sponsor’s race. I told everybody before the last run that I think we can get second but not first. Mark Ingersoll (Johnson’s crew chief) is spectacular on that mountain.”

By qualifying on-pole, Edwards became the second Pro Stock driver to secure his position in the Countdown to 1, the NHRA’s six-race playoff. Jeg Coughlin also has clinched a playoff spot.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Arana pushed his Lucas Oil Buell to the top of the 16-bike order with a 7.319-second pass at 180.81 mph for his second No. 1 effort of 2009. Arana, who won earlier in the season at Gainesville, Fla., will face No. 16 qualifier Bailey Whitaker in the opening round.

“What an awesome feeling,” Arana said. “We had some left in it (Friday), and we decided to get a little aggressive. I knew the opportunity was there in the final session, because I watched the air get 800-feet better. We have a fast and consistent bike, and my goal is to win tomorrow.”

* * *

MORRISON, Colo. – First-round pairings for professional eliminations today for the 30th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.

Top Fuel – 1. Antron Brown, 3.862 seconds, 318.39 mph  vs. 16. Rob Passey, 9.653, 110.40; 2. Cory McClenathan, 3.882, 317.05  vs. 15. Terry Haddock, 4.841, 170.77; 3. Tony Schumacher, 3.895, 312.28  vs. 14. Todd Simpson, 4.402, 266.16; 4. Larry Dixon, 3.903, 310.34  vs. 13. Steven Chrisman, 4.300, 272.89; 5. Spencer Massey, 3.940, 303.43  vs. 12. Mike Strasburg, 4.091, 281.60; 6. Doug Kalitta, 3.975, 305.42  vs. 11. Clay Millican, 4.082, 304.05; 7. Shawn Langdon, 3.982, 309.63  vs. 10. Joe Hartley, 4.076, 292.52; 8. Brandon Bernstein, 4.008, 304.94  vs. 9. Morgan Lucas, 4.045, 290.57.

Funny Car – 1. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.121, 297.22  vs. 16. Gary Densham, Chevy Impala, 6.145, 111.78; 2. Tony Pedregon, Impala, 4.135, 294.50  vs. 15. Mike Neff, Ford Mustang, 5.118, 151.43; 3. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.152, 297.68  vs. 14. Grant Downing, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.633, 200.80; 4. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.156, 303.37  vs. 13. Jerry Toliver, Monte Carlo, 4.269, 296.50; 5. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.157, 293.28  vs. 12. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.257, 294.05; 6. John Force, Mustang, 4.176, 298.93  vs. 11. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.241, 284.93; 7. Ashley Force Hood, Mustang, 4.185, 301.00  vs. 10. Del Worsham, Toyota Solara, 4.203, 292.90; 8. Cruz Pedregon, Solara, 4.188, 293.47  vs. 9. Jeff Arend, Solara, 4.196, 296.63.

Pro Stock – 1. Mike Edwards, Pontiac GXP, 6.957, 197.71  vs. 16. Mark Buehring, Chevy Cobalt, 7.205, 191.38; 2. Allen Johnson, Dodge Stratus, 6.964, 197.10  vs. 15. Danny Gruninger, Stratus, 7.165, 192.74; 3. Ron Krisher, Cobalt, 6.986, 196.67  vs. 14. Warren Johnson, GXP, 7.076, 196.04; 4. Jason Line, GXP, 6.990, 197.42  vs. 13. Greg Stanfield, GXP, 7.037, 195.73; 5. Greg Anderson, GXP, 6.993, 196.73  vs. 12. Kurt Johnson, Cobalt, 7.028, 195.85; 6. Rodger Brogdon, GXP, 6.995, 196.64  vs. 11. Rickie Jones, Stratus, 7.028, 195.48; 7. V. Gaines, Stratus, 7.015, 195.45 vs. 10. Johnny Gray, Stratus, 7.021, 196.39; 8. Jeg Coughlin, Cobalt, 7.016, 196.30  vs. 9. Larry Morgan, Stratus, 7.017, 195.31.

Pro Stock Motorcycle – 1. Hector Arana, Buell, 7.319, 180.81  vs. 16. Bailey Whitaker, Buell, 7.536, 172.08; 2. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.342, 179.02  vs. 15. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.491, 174.96; 3. Craig Treble, Suzuki, 7.358, 177.98  vs. 14. Shawn Gann, Buell, 7.482, 176.51; 4. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.363, 177.65  vs. 13. Mike Berry, Buell, 7.477, 174.64; 5. David Hope, Buell, 7.374, 176.44  vs. 12. Douglas Horne, Buell, 7.466, 178.26; 6. Matt Guidera, Buell, 7.379, 176.90  vs. 11. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 7.456, 178.71; 7. Matt Smith, Suzuki, 7.379, 175.37  vs. 10. Junior Pippin, Buell, 7.448, 175.71; 8. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.386, 177.28 vs. 9. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.401, 177.93.  Did Not Qualify: 17. Ken Van Buren, 7.654, 173.83; 18. Katie Sullivan, 7.729, 174.08.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 12 2009
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