Ron Capps carries No. 1 on the side of his NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T this year after his team led by crew chief Rahn Tobler and assistant Eric Lane helped him win his first Funny Car world championship after being a runner-up for an NHRA record four times.
The native Californian, who lives near San Diego with his wife, Shelley and two children, had a stellar 2016 with career bests of seven event titles, 10 final rounds, five poles and 54 winning rounds of eliminations in 24 events.
Capps, 51, in his 10th season with NAPA and 13th with Don Schumacher Racing ranks second in Funny Car wins with 49 and totals 50 in nitro categories including his first driving a Top Fuel dragster in 1995 as a rookie.
In NHRA professional drag racing, drivers who finish the year ranked in the top-10 have the option of selecting a car number for the coming season that corresponds to where they finished in the final standings of the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
Instead of doing that, NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car driver Ron Capps has used “28” since he began driving a nitro Funny Car in 1997.
That will change in 2017 when the season opens. Capps’ NAPA Dodge Charger R/T will carry No. 1 after he won his first world championship last year with crew chief Rahn Tobler and Don Schumacher Racing.
“I’ve always said that’s the only way I’ll change my car number,” said Capps, who clinched the prestigious title during qualifying before the last day of his 22nd year of professional racing.
The native Californian who lives near San Diego, had a stellar 2017 season with Tobler and their NAPA Know How crew with career bests of five event titles in 24 races, 10 final rounds, two poles and 54 winning rounds of eliminations.
He recorded the best elapsed time (3.843 seconds) and speed (330.23 mph) of his career. His time of 3.843 was one of three NHRA track records he reset last year.
For Tobler, it was his fourth world championship as a crew chief, and his first at DSR.
Capps had been the runner-up for a record four times but will never again have to answer what a championship would mean to him; he now knows.
This is Capps’ 10th season with NAPA and 13th with DSR.
Capps ranks second in all-time Funny Car wins with 49 and totals 50 that ranks 11th in NHRA pro categories including his first NHRA title driving a Top Fuel dragster in 1995.
The NAPA team has won 17 Mello Yello event titles over the past five seasons including two in 2015 that elevated Capps to second on the all-time Funny Car winner’s list with 44 NHRA Wally trophies.
He is one of 14 drivers in NHRA history to have won in both of drag racing’s premier categories.
Capps was going to drag races before he was born.
“I was in my mom's belly at my first race,” he says, adding his mom, Betty, met his dad, John, at a drag race.
Capps cannot remember when he was not going to drag races with his dad whether racing or watching and often camping at the tracks.
He was 6 years old when he attended “The Last Drag Race” at California’s fabled Lions Drag Strip.
Capps learned to work on racecars with his dad, and graduated to working on the crew of the world championship Top Alcohol Dragster team with the late Blaine Johnson and his brother, Alan Johnson, who remains a legendary Top Fuel crew chief.
“They took me under their wing and taught me a lot of things working on their alcohol car,” Capps said. “That’s kind of how it was; I was a crew member with aspirations to drive. I finally got that shot.”
The “shot” came in 1995 when he drove a Top Fuel dragster owned by Roger Primm.
Although the Primm team competed in only a partial 14-race schedule, Capps recorded his first NHRA national event title when he won near Atlanta. That year he also added a runner-up finish and advanced to two quarterfinals.
Capps drove Primm’s car six times in 1996, and his talent caught the eye of Hall of Famer Don “Snake” Prudhomme, who hired Capps to drive a Funny Car full time the following year. With Prudhomme, Capps won 13 event titles.
In 2005, Capps moved from Prudhomme’s team to Don Schumacher Racing. For Capps’s first three years with DSR, his Dodge was sponsored by popular cologne Brut, and in 2008 was replaced by another iconic and nationally known corporation, NAPA AUTO PARTS.
Drag racing clearly is Capps’s passion and vocation, but he’ll race anything from Sprint cars on dirt to go-karts. When he can’t get to a track, he satiates his need for speed with various virtual computer games.
Capps was a student-athlete at San Luis Obispo High School in Central California where he lettered three years in football as a slot back and wide receiver, and four years as a wrestler. He also competed in Freestyle and Greco Roman wrestling for a couple of years with USA Wrestling California.
He studied computer software for four years in college before opting to pursue a professional racing career.
After high school, Capps began competing in racquetball and developed into a premier “Open” division player.
Capps is comfortable in front of a camera whether in an interview after a race with a smudge of clutch dust on his face or when it’s covered with theatrical makeup.
A longtime member of the Screen Actors Guild, which allows him to vote on the Oscars and preview movies, he has become one of the most recognized drag racers in the country through starring roles in television commercials for sponsor NAPA AUTO PARTS. He helped to popularize the “NAPA Know How” jingle.
“I’ll never forget when I was at the Denver airport going up an escalator and a woman at least 80 was coming down,” he recalls. “As she came closer she started singing the ‘NAPA Know How’ song and was shaking her head like we do in commercials.
“That’s the impact I’ve felt since being part of the NAPA family, and those commercials have done so much to help expose NHRA drag racing to new fans. I never could have imagined what it would mean to be in a TV commercial. It’s amazing how many people recognize me from our NAPA commercials.”
He had a cameo role in 2013 release of “Snake & Mongoo$e: The Movie” feature film. The movie celebrates the Funny Car rivalry between Prudhomme and Tom “Mongoose” McEwen that made drag racing and Funny Cars part of American mainstream culture through the marketing of the drivers and sales of replica Mattel’s Hot Wheels toys.
Capps is a passionate rock aficionado and lists countless rock stars as friends and several have been his guests at various NHRA events throughout his career. His rocker friends range from members of iconic groups like Metallica, Iron Maiden, Seether, Sammy Hagar and Van Halen.
-NAPA KNOW HOW-
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