The driver of the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge expends so much energy on race weekends that a little time to himself would be completely forgivable now and then – but the unstoppable Ron Capps instead opts to plump his schedule with NAPA appearances and loads of extracurricular activities between NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series events. For Capps, the aggressive schedule is a complement, not a hindrance, to his performance as the pilot of one of four Don Schumacher Racing Funny Cars.
Last month, Capps’ schedule included participation for the eighth time in Tony Stewart’s Prelude to the Dream all-star charity race at Eldora Speedway, proceeds of which benefited the Feed the Children foundation.
The Prelude event came just days after Capps raced to a blistering 3.96, the quickest nitro Funny Car run of all time, at the Toyota NHRA SuperNationals in Englishtown, and it provided the opportunity for the newly anointed fastest Funny Car driver in the land to have fun on the dirt track with fellow NHRA competitor Cruz Pedregon, NASCAR standouts Stewart and Jimmie Johnson, and many more celebrity drivers from the world of motorsports. A couple of weeks later, Capps participated in the Jimmie Johnson Foundation Golf Tournament in San Diego, near his residence on the coast of Southern California in Carlsbad, to aid in raising funds for schools in need.
For those who want to know what Capps is up to – both on and off the racetrack – the fan-friendly driver makes it easy. As one of the more accessible and “talkative” drivers on social-media platform Twitter, @NapaRonCapps shares the good, bad, and exciting (and yes, sometimes boring) moments of life as they happen with his nearly 10,000 followers. Famously motivated and/or inspired by hard-core tunes at high volume, followers even know when Capps is rockin’ Van Halen, Krokus, Eminem, AFI, Slayer, Motley Crue, etc. and to what decibel level (almost always 11, sometimes 11 ½).
Anytime, anyplace is the right time for the prolific @NapaRonCapps to Tweet.
The Tweets are so honest that they are sometimes uncomfortable to read – as after a tough second-round loss at the recent Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk – but Capps doesn’t hold back much, and that’s what makes it interesting.
@NapaRonCapps: Leaving track now, headed to Detroit to fly home. We had the car to beat today once again but I let the Napa car get out of the groove #Grrrrr”
To elaborate, after two wins in a run of six consecutive final rounds that began in Charlotte at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, a shocking first-round loss in Chicago followed by that second-round exit in Norwalk didn’t sit well with the driver who is second in the Full Throttle Series Funny Car standings behind John Force Racing’s Robert Hight.
“Truly, without being arrogant, that was our race to lose,” said Capps of the event at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park. “It was. We were way ahead of [opponent Bob Tasca III] and on a great run, but I let it get a little bit inside the groove and went over the centerline. I just didn’t do a good job.
“But I felt like we weren’t going to be beat that day; I felt like we had the better car. I felt that way in the Topeka final when Jack Beckman ended up winning, and I felt that way in Englishtown after running the 3.96 and we got beat by Johnny Gray in the final. Each time we show up on Friday, I really feel like we have the best car – and you can’t ask for more than that as a driver. [Crew chief] Rahn Tobler has given me back a huge amount of confidence as a driver.”
Capps and Tobler were united in one of the biggest shake-ups in recent history following the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas, where Capps did not qualify and DSR teammate Beckman exited in the second round of eliminations. Capps’ then-crew chief, Tim Richards, shockingly resigned on Saturday evening, and Schumacher made a command decision on Sunday after Beckman’s car was ousted: Switch the Funny Car teams in their entirety, cars and all, and bring on a new tuner for Beckman.
Despite the shake-up that consumed both of their teams, Ron Capps and Jack Beckman have enjoyed tremendous seasons.
“The first thing I felt was terrible for Jack,” admitted Capps. “I went right over and found him, and we talked. After that, I took on the changes as a challenge. It was going to be something different, but I had faith in Don Schumacher, and I knew what a great crew chief Rahn was. Sometimes he doesn’t get his due, but you have to look at what Rahn has done: He has championships in IHRA and NHRA with Shirley Muldowney, he would have had another championship ring with Doug Kalitta if my teammate Tony Schumacher hadn’t made ‘The Run,’ he went over to Cruz Pedregon’s and won a championship.
“He has won almost 50 races as a crew chief, but he doesn’t have a big ego and isn’t a big profiler – he just goes about his business. I think now – especially after the six finals and how well we are doing – he is getting his due. He’s doing what he’s always been doing, but some people may have forgotten how good he’s always been, and they’re maybe noticing a little bit more because when you put on the NAPA uniform, you almost have to have your chest puffed up a little bit. As a driver, crew chief, or any team member, you swell up with pride to wear something like that.”
Although Capps is confident with his team and in his position, he isn’t willing to think too far ahead and says that he has “learned to just look right out in front of my feet.” Three times, Capps has finished second, and he knows that once the Countdown to the Championship begins, any one of the top 10 drivers can catch a wave and ride it to the big trophy.
“We have a great car, and I feel like this is one of my best chances, for sure,” said Capps, who will start with a brand-new DSR in-house-built chassis at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals in Denver. “But right now, I’m having fun, and each race is cool to go to. This Western Swing is my favorite time of year. I really love the track in Denver, I love the Bandimeres, I love everything about that race and wish we had more than one race there every year.
“Tobler tells me that he’s never really done well at Denver and that we’re going to try a completely different approach up there, but a lot of crew chiefs look at it like that, and Rahn is really humble. He’s said that before, and we’ve walked away as the low qualifier.”
Capps’ optimism is understandable in light of remarkable moments this season that have not been in short supply. He recalls with enthusiasm the first run in the new car in Charlotte with the new team and how he got a glimpse of the future.
“We went right to the pole on that first run,” said Capps, who would ultimately start second on race day at zMAX Dragway. “That reminded me how a Funny Car felt on a good run. I remember coasting down there in the shutdown area, shaking my fist, and saying, 'Man, this is going to be fun.' ”
Capps also has had the privilege of running the NAPA car with the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund paint scheme, helping generate awareness of the Get Back, Give Back promotion encouraging consumers purchasing NAPA batteries, starters, and alternators during July to donate all or a portion of the rebates to the fund that has helped soldier heroes and their families adjust to post-military life. Capps, amazed by “how many folks have been touched by this,” was honored to spend time at the Chicago event with retired U.S. Army Sgt. Rob Dickey, a soldier who lost part of his leg to a landmine while on duty in Afghanistan and was aided by the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.
For all of the unique and memorable experiences he has had as an NHRA driver, Capps is just Dad to kids Caden and Taylor, and soon after returning home from the Norwalk event, the busy life continued as he and his family loaded up in their motorhome for a camping trip near San Luis Obispo, Calif. (via Twitter: @NapaRonCapps: NorthBound n Down. Just stopped at truck wash n back on the road. 10hrs from now b on the SeaDoos on the lake #Ahhhhh”).
After the Denver race, Capps will return to spend more time with his family at the scenic spot before wheeling their home away from home toward the NHRA Sonoma Nationals.
“I’m really looking forward to this,” he said. “It’s so great to spend this time with my family and friends, and these next few races are like when I was a kid growing up, going as a crewmember on Jim Rizzoli’s dragster and Alan Johnson and Blaine Johnson’s cars. This takes me back. I have won at all three [Denver, Sonoma, and Seattle], but I’ve never won all three in the same year. It’s a small goal. We’ll see what happens.”