In a class full of star competitors and breathtaking performances, Funny Car’s Ron Capps has managed to stand out in an impressive way over the past month.
Coming off his first Funny Car world championship, Capps hasn’t let down one bit, taking over the points lead in his 10,000-horsepower NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T by winning three straight races. That gives him considerable momentum heading into this weekend’s 29th annual Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties at Heartland Park Topeka, where Capps will look to keep his remarkable run going against a class full of worthy challengers.
“Funny Car is just getting tougher and tougher,” said Capps, a three-time winner in Topeka. “In the past, you’ve had people say you don’t want to peak too soon, but I don’t think it matters anymore. What you’re seeing is [crew chief] Rahn Tobler and his preparation. He is like that all the time. I’ve seen it, and I’ve been with him, so I’ve known it, and it’s just cool to see it all come to fruition. When he gets a handle on something, I wouldn’t want to race against the NAPA car, I know that.”
Capps already has four final-round appearances this season, posting wins over three consecutive weekends in Houston, Charlotte, and Atlanta. While Capps’ driving continues to be superb, including knocking off Tim Wilkerson in the final round in Atlanta on a holeshot, he remains thoroughly impressed with the strides his team has made this season after winning the championship.
“I’ve got such a great team right now,” said Capps, who has 53 career victories. “The car speaks for itself lately. Rahn Tobler and Eric [Lane, assistant crew chief], those two together are the dynamic duo. It’s so fun to watch the approach they have and think about what’s going to happen next. I’m able to sit in there, put my firesuit on, and listen to what they’re doing and know what the car is going to do because of how they’re speaking.”
Everyone is in tune thus far, but Capps knows keeping his torrid pace will be difficult against a host of top challengers. That includes his Don Schumacher Racing teammate and defending event winner Matt Hagan, who posted victories at the first two races of 2017, as well as 16-time world champion John Force, Robert Hight, Courtney Force, and Tommy Johnson Jr.
Capps, though, has confidence in what his team is capable of, something that was only further validated during his championship campaign a year ago. Following a 2016 season marked with consistency and five victories, the Funny Car veteran also knows his team is motivated to accomplish even more, starting with a possible fourth win at Heartland Park Topeka this weekend.
“The ones we came close, we just didn’t have those little breaks go our way in the [Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship],” Capps said. “It just didn’t happen. But it was well worth the wait, and it showed we could do it. We did it without winning a race in the Countdown, and that showed the consistency you have to have in NHRA Funny Car.”
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May 19, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, May 20, at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 21.
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