LAS VEGAS (Oct. 29, 2017) - Ron Capps and Don Schumacher Racing's NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T Powered by Pennzoil and crew chief Rahn Tobler could only watch an opportunity to extend their points lead slip away Sunday near Las Vegas heading to the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series finale in two weeks.
Capps, the reigning NHRA Funny Car world champion, started the final day of the 17th annual NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a 25-point lead but lost in the opening round to John Force after both drivers lost traction early. Unfortunately, Capps didn't have a second opportunity after car backfired and shut off.
"Just a strange day, to go out and have it do what it did is just so out of character for Tobler and the guys," said Capps, who has won a series-best eight Mello Yello event titles to date this year. "We weren't trying anything special. We weren't trying to rotate the earth, but it spun the tires and then a quick backfire. When I saw Force out there, I knew we weren't going to get him."
A win over Force would have advanced Capps to face John Force Racing's Robert Hight, who was second in points in the second round and a win in that round would have given Capps the lead heading to the NHRA Finals in two weeks at Pomona, Calif.
Force, who was nearly out of contention for the championship, had a remarkably bad reaction at the start against Hight then lost traction and headed toward the guardwall in an apparent attempt to allow Hight to advance and take at least a 15-point lead over Capps. In the semifinals, Hight faced Courtney Force, another teammate, and she surprised many when she beat Hight who smoked the tires.
That will have Capps trailing Hight by only 15 points at Pomona where points will increased by 150 percent for the last event of the Countdown to the Championship playoff. At 22 of the first 23 Mello Yello events, like at Las Vegas, the most a driver could earn was 130 points but it increases to 191 at Pomona.
"Last night, we finished qualifying and looked at the ladder and thought this is a good opportunity for us to make some ground up. I'm sure Robert Hight and his team were thinking the same thing. It just didn't happen our way.
"NHRA's implementation of points-and-a-half in Pomona is going to make it pretty exciting. We haven't had to come from behind, like this, like we're going to have to at Pomona, but it's going to be fun. I look forward to getting with my crew guys and trying to battle back on Sunday in Pomona and see if we can't make it exciting."
Winner: Matt Hagan (Don Schumacher Racing)
No. 1 Qualifier: Jack Beckman (Don Schumacher Racing), 3.854, 335.57-track records
RON CAPPS, NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
Crew chief: Rahn Tobler; Assistant: Eric Lane
First round: John Force (4.469 sec., 231.75 mph) def. CAPPS (5.245 sec., 142.42)
Qualifying position: No. 6
FRIDAY: 3.916 sec., 325.06 mph, (Session 1); 6.597, 103.02, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 3.937, 326.56, (Session 3); 3.896, 326.08, (Session 4)
Pts Events Wins Rup Semi Qtr 1st rd Poles DNQ W/L
2017 1st 23 8 4 2 5 4 0 0 52-15
CAREER 506 58* 54 91 103 182 21 19 679-429
*57 FC/1 TF
Career best time, speed: 3.839 sec. (2017, Phoenix); 333.58 mph (2017, Phoenix)
BY THE NUMBERS
Last event, Oct. 15, Dallas: Qualified No. 2, lost in championship round to Robert Hight
A year ago at Las Vegas 2: Qualified No. 4, lost in semifinals to Courtney Force
This spring at Las Vegas 1: Qualified No. 4, lost in first round to Jonnie Lindberg
Career at Las Vegas 2: Wins 4 (2001, 2005, 2011-12), Runner-ups 0, Poles 1 (2011)
Career at Las Vegas: Wins 5 (2009, 2001, 2005, 2011-12, Runner-ups 2 (2006-07), Poles 1 (2011)
COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
(Unofficial standings through Las Vegas 2; 23rd of 24 events; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. Robert Hight (4) 2548 ----
2. RON CAPPS (8) 2533 -15
3. Courtney Force 2423 -125
4. JACK BECKMAN (2) 2396 -152
5. MATT HAGAN (4) 2387 -161
x-6. John Force (1) 2306 -242
x-7. TOMMY JOHNSON JR. (1) 2276 -272
x-8. Tim Wilkerson 2237 -311
x-9. J.R. Todd (2) 2233 -315
x-10. Cruz Pedregon 2163 -345
x=eliminated from championship contention