Ron Capps, the driver of the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, is one of the most recognizable faces on the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series tour thanks to his NAPA TV commercials and his social media following, but when the NHRA heads to Sonoma for the NHRA Sonoma Nationals, he’ll be even more recognizable because Sonoma is home to him.
“The place is like home to me, so is the whole [Western] Swing, but Sonoma is always a place that's got a big gold circle around it,” Capps said. “Every season, we pack the motorhome, and everybody that I went to high school with, I grew up with, my family, everybody is there; we stay in the motorhome up on the hill, and it's just a big homecoming for me. It's good karma; I love that place.”
Not only is Capps a fan of Sonoma because it’s his home track, he also has been pretty successful at the track set among the beautiful backdrop of the Sonoma Valley with hills of wineries as far as the eye can see. In addition to being the defending event winner, he has won the event the last two times the NHRA has stopped in Sonoma.
“I kind of forgot it was back to back,” Capps said. “I remember winning last year and going to Disneyland with my kids the day after on our way home, and I forgot actually that we won the year before.”
His Don Schumacher Racing teammate Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock), and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also 2011 winners of the event that will be telecast on ESPN2.
What Capps hasn’t forgotten is how to win. He and his NAPA Auto Parts team have been on a roll after a rough start to the season and a crew swap earlier this year, scoring two victories in six straight final-round appearances after adding crew chief Rahn Tobler to the team, which has led to his jump to second place in the Full Throttle championship points standings.
“This season has been awesome so far,” Capps said. “I’m really looking forward to continuing it at the Sonoma race since it’s my favorite of the year and just because we won there the last two years. What made those last two wins so special was that I had my family with me in the winner’s circle, and they’ll be with me again. And it’s cool because I grew up near there.”
Capps not only has jumped to second place in the points standings, but he also is enjoying his time in the cockpit again, something that he said he lost sight of during some of the struggles earlier this year. The NAPA Auto Parts driver trails points leader Robert Hight by three rounds of racing with just four races left until the Countdown to the Championship begins at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, Sept. 14-16.
Capps may be toward the top of the points battle looking to retake the lead, but quite a few players are at the bottom looking just to make it into the top 10 in these last four races for their chance at the 2012 NHRA Full Throttle championship, including his DSR teammate and reigning Funny Car world champ Matt Hagan, who sits in 13th place. Rookie Alexis DeJoria and veteran Tim Wilkerson are both on the outside looking in as well but within striking distance of Bob Tasca III and John Force, who sit ninth and 10th, respectively.
The battle is very similar in Top Fuel; the shuffle for the top spot is tight between Spencer Massey, Brown, and Tony Schumacher, and the battle for the bottom is just as tight, with Bob Vandergriff Jr., Clay Millican, and Terry McMillen fighting for the 10th and final spot.
For the first time this season, Pro Stock is led by the Mopar Dodge Avenger of Allen Johnson, the most recent race winner who has been on a hot streak. The Summit Racing duo of Greg Anderson and Jason Line sit second and third, respectively, and Mike Edwards and Vincent Nobile round out the top five. Four-time Pro Stock world champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. is looking to secure his spot in the top 10, and V. Gaines and Larry Morgan are also fighting for that 10th and final spot.
The action in the two-wheel class is a battle at the top between the Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle duo of Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines and the Lucas Oil Buell team of Hector Arana Sr. and Hector Arana Jr. Veteran riders Matt Smith and Shawn Gann are holding on to the ninth and 10th spots as the tour heads to Sonoma, and Steve Johnson and John Hall are working their hardest to move from outside to inside the top 10 by the cutoff.
* TICKETS: For tickets for the NHRA Sonoma Nationals, call Sonoma, 800-870-RACE (7223), or log on to www.racesonoma.com.
* ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours and 30 minutes of qualifying coverage beginning at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 28, and three hours of eliminations coverage beginning at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 29.
* LUCAS OIL SERIES: The NHRA Sonoma Nationals will feature competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where some of the future stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series are born. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 8:15 a.m. on July 27; eliminations begin at 8:15 a.m. on July 28 and continue through July 29.