Reigning NHRA Funny Car world champion Ron Capps has had a lot of pulse-quickening moments in his long and distinguished career – some good, some bad – but none of them came close to the heart-stopping moment in round one of the recent Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals.
Capps’ NAPA Auto Parts Toyota GR Supra had qualified No. 1 in the field and was expected to take an easy victory over gutty impendent Dale Creasy Jr., but Capps’ blue rocket smoked the tires 100 feet into the run. Capps lifted and got back into the gas, only to see Creasy’s mount also strike the tires further down course and then veer wildly into his lane right in front of him. Creasy had his car on two wheels trying to avoid Capps, and the duo missed colliding by mere inches. Capps drove by for the victory, but no doubt exited on wobbly legs.
“It got in trouble, and I gave it one pedal and it went right back up in smoke,” Capps recounted. “I lifted again and waited and watched his car. He looked like he was about to be long gone, and then, all of the sudden, he [smoked the tires]. I rolled into mine about half throttle, and it hooked up and went. I knew I was going to catch and pass him because he was gonna have to wait [to get back onto the throttle]. I was just rolling into full throttle when his car just turned completely sideways and was coming in my lane.
“I got off the throttle, turned left as hard and as far as I could, and I got on the brake. But Funny Cars don't react right away. It always seems like it takes forever. As far as I could with my belts on, I was looking out the side window like, 'This is gonna be bad.' I was bracing for a bad one. The only thing I could think of was, 'Not our new Supra body!'
"I was looking out the side window like, 'This is gonna be bad.' "
“When he didn't hit the front of my car, I watched out the side window as it went by waiting to feel something -- hitting a header, for sure, at the very least, or the body -- and I never felt anything. And I was like, 'Whoa, did that just happen?' [Crew chief Dean Antonelli] came on the radio and was asking me [if we'd hit] because they couldn’t see through the tire smoke, and I just told him 'I think I just pooped my pants.' I told him I didn't feel anything but there's no way we didn't hit. When I got the car at the top and I could not believe that there was nothing on the side of car; I could not believe it. I was just dumbfounded.”
Capps went on to beat Cruz Pedregon in round two but fell to Bob Tasca III in the semifinals to remain solidly in third place in the championship race.