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Capps Clinches Playoff Spot

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 25 2009

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Points-leader Ron Capps became the first Funny Car driver to clinch a spot in the NHRA’s Countdown to 1 playoffs Friday night during the opening round of qualifications for the FRAM-Autolite Nationals in Sonoma, Calif.

Ron Capps (NHRA Photo)

Ron Capps (NHRA Photo)

A five-time winner this season in the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger, Capps was assured of a place in the Countdown after making his first qualifying attempt at Infineon Raceway. That lap of 4.215-seconds at 288.95 mph was good for No. 5 at the time. But a mechanical problem during the second pass caused him to shut down at the starting line, aborting the run, and provisionally dropping Capps to 13th. Two more rounds of qualifying on Saturday will determine the 16-car field for Sunday’s eliminations.

The Countdown to 1 will begin for the top 10 in points following the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis on Labor Day weekend. The final six events of the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series will decide the 2009 Funny Car champion.

“Obviously, it feels great to have clinched a spot in the Countdown,” said Capps, of Don Schumacher Racing. “We have a lot of unfinished business. We want to stay No. 1 going into the Countdown. But to know that you’re already going to be involved in the Countdown takes a little bit of pressure off, for sure. And now we can sit back and watch everybody else battle.”

Capps’ teammate, rookie Matt Hagan, put himself into position to claim his first No. 1 qualifying spot in Funny Car with a lap at 4.068-seconds at 307.51 mph in his Shelor.com Dodge Charger. J.R. Todd (Top Fuel), Ron Krisher (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also emerged as qualifying leaders as the third and final event of the “Western Swing” got underway.

“That was great run on a great track,” said Hagan, one of the leading contenders for the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future award. “The fans here got a great show. Don [Schumacher, team-owner] puts all the right stuff underneath us and that allows us to make runs like that. Being a rookie, it’s nice to know I can come out here and do that. We really needed something to come together for us. Our morale has been down a bit lately but this really helps turn it around. We’ve had a lot of missed opportunities but this is a big positive and we just need to keep it going.”

Todd, who won this event in 2006 and is competing in a limited schedule this season for Bay Area team-owner David Baca, powered his Mach 1 Dragster to a 3.811-second run at 312.06 mph to lead the 16-car order.

“That was a great run and I’m a little shocked,” Todd said. “It’s great to be able to come out here and make a run like that for David (from Brentwood, Calif.), since this is his hometown track. He’ll have some friends and family out here (Saturday), so hopefully we can keep it going.”

Antron Brown, who is attempting to become the seventh pro driver in NHRA history to sweep the “Western Swing,” qualified fourth in his Matco Tools Dragster with a pass at 3.844-seconds and 311.05 mph.

“We made two good runs today,” Brown said. “Any time you can be in the top four, you’re doing something right. Our goal is to stay consistent and go down the racetrack and put ourselves in a position to do well. (Crew chiefs) Mark (Oswald) and Brian (Corradi) have a great handle on our Matco Tools Dragster and we’re excited about working on the race day setup on Saturday afternoon.”

In Pro Stock, Krisher took advantage of cooler conditions in the second session and posted a track record time of 6.573-seconds at 208.84 mph in the Valvoline Chevrolet Cobalt.

“The [NHRA Safety Safari] helped us out by working on the track and sweeping off the dust,” Krisher said. “I didn’t get to look at the computer but I think we had the right amount of clutch or close to it. We made some big changes on the car race day in Seattle and they appear to be working out. Mike [Edwards] helped us out with a bar change and it really picked the car up in 60-feet. We have more left but we probably won’t see it tomorrow because there will be water in the air and these Pro Stock cars don’t like that at all. I might stay No. 1, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Greg [Anderson] Jason [Line] and Edwards are awfully fast, but if I stay No. 1 it might help make up for that red-light in Denver. I can’t put that behind me yet.”

Krawiec, who has been to the final round at the last six races, was quickest in Pro Stock Motorcycle, covering the distance in 6.973-seconds at 190.48 mph on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson.

“With that headwind, there was definitely some E.T. left on table but I think I made one of the best runs of the session,” Krawiec said. “I didn’t have to correct much. This whole class is about making really perfect runs and that’s what we’ve been doing lately. It’s great to come here in Sonoma and be No. 1 for now. Sonoma has always been a great place for me; I came here the first time and went to the final and then got to the semis last year. I just need to give it my best shot and hopefully round wins will follow on Sunday. It doesn’t really matter where you qualify.”

Results after the first two rounds of qualifying for the 22nd annual FRAM-Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway,15th of 24 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.

Top Fuel – 1. J.R. Todd, 3.811 seconds, 312.06 mph; 2. Larry Dixon, 3.816, 313.44; 3. Cory McClenathan, 3.831, 314.68; 4. Antron Brown, 3.844, 311.05; 5. Spencer Massey, 3.850, 303.57; 6. Shawn Langdon, 3.857, 309.20; 7. Morgan Lucas, 3.868, 309.91; 8. Tony Schumacher, 3.880, 308.92; 9. Brandon Bernstein, 3.898, 298.40; 10. Doug Kalitta, 3.906, 307.44; 11. Clay Millican, 3.908, 310.48; 12. Joe Hartley, 3.981, 304.39. Not Qualified: 13. Mike Strasburg, 3.986, 305.08; 14. Terry Haddock, 4.009, 291.82; 15. Troy Buff, 4.060, 267.64; 16. Steven Chrisman, 6.729, 108.74.

Funny Car – 1. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.068, 307.51; 2. Mike Neff, Ford Mustang, 4.069, 305.42; 3. Ashley Force Hood, Mustang, 4.099, 304.67; 4. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.129, 300.00; 5. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.133, 300.13; 6. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.133, 292.33; 7. Del Worsham, Toyota Solara, 4.136, 302.48; 8. John Force, Mustang, 4.138, 298.40; 9. Gary Densham, Chevy Impala, 4.164, 293.41; 10. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.184, 290.38; 11. Tony Pedregon, Impala, 4.201, 281.95; 12. Jeff Arend, Solara, 4.202, 294.37. Not Qualified: 13. Ron Capps, 4.215, 288.95; 14. Jerry Toliver, 4.248, 296.37; 15. Brian Thiel, 4.248, 290.76; 16. Jeff Diehl, 4.437, 269.67; 17. Grant Downing, 5.205, 143.37; 18. Cruz Pedregon, 7.251, 89.82.

Pro Stock – 1. Ron Krisher, Chevy Cobalt, 6.573, 208.84; 2. Mike Edwards, Pontiac GXP, 6.574, 209.82; 3. Jason Line, GXP, 6.574, 209.52; 4. Johnny Gray, Dodge Stratus, 6.581, 209.39; 5. Allen Johnson, Stratus, 6.581, 208.75; 6. Greg Anderson, GXP, 6.595, 209.39; 7. Jeg Coughlin, Cobalt, 6.596, 209.23; 8. Kurt Johnson, Cobalt, 6.599, 209.07; 9. Warren Johnson, GXP, 6.614, 208.81; 10. Larry Morgan, Stratus, 6.627, 206.83; 11. Vinnie Deceglie, Stratus, 6.629, 207.21; 12. Rodger Brogdon, GXP, 6.634, 207.98. Not Qualified: 13. Greg Stanfield, 6.647, 207.24; 14. Rickie Jones, 6.660, 206.45; 15. V. Gaines, 6.690, 206.01; 16. Ben Watson, 6.706, 204.54; 17. Gordie Rivera, 6.726, 204.70; 18. Bob Benza, 6.741, 205.51; 19. Danny Gruninger, 11.746, 72.74.

Pro Stock Motorcycle – 1. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.973, 190.48; 2. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.986, 188.52; 3. Hector Arana, Buell, 7.002, 190.35; 4. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.019, 189.04; 5. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 7.066, 188.99; 6. Douglas Horne, Buell, 7.080, 187.26; 7. Shawn Gann, Buell, 7.084, 187.50; 8. Craig Treble, Suzuki, 7.088, 186.41; 9. Matt Smith, Suzuki, 7.092, 187.29; 10. David Hope, Buell, 7.129, 183.34; 11. Junior Pippin, Buell, 7.129, 182.18; 12. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.130, 184.65. Not Qualified: 13. Mike Berry, 7.137, 182.33; 14. Jim Underdahl, 7.141, 188.54; 15. Katie Sullivan, 7.148, 183.12; 16. Matt Guidera, 7.149, 179.85; 17. Bailey Whitaker, 7.211, 180.21; 18. Ryan Schnitz, 7.279, 176.05; 19. Rhett Lougheed, 7.398, 176.95; 20. Ken Van Buren, 7.454, 177.21; 21. James Surber, 9.108, 167.86.

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

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 25 2009
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