BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Sept. 13, 2017) - Ron Capps and the NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car team led by crew chief Rahn Tobler, would like to get their seventh NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event title of the year this weekend at zMAX Dragway near Charlotte.
But the 22-year veteran driver understands that when the six-race Countdown to the Championship opens this weekend at Concord, N.C., points matter more than trophies.
Capps will start the Countdown in his Dodge Charger R/T Powered by Pennzoil as the top-seed for the second straight Countdown. Despite not earning an event title in last year's playoff, strong qualifying and consistency that included two final rounds and three semifinals were enough for the NAPA team to earn Capps his first NHRA world championship that was clinched in the semifinals of the final event at Pomona, Calif.
"Before every Countdown race last year we said we had to leave with the same or bigger points lead we had when we arrived," Capps said. "If we kept doing that the other teams would run out of races to catch us."
That plan worked to perfection as the NAPA Dodge never lost the points lead in the Countdown.
At this point in the season a year ago, Capps had won five event titles and despite repeating as the 18-race regular season winner with six titles his team starts the Countdown with a smaller lead. NHRA reduced the bonus for earning the top-seed from 20 to 10 so when racing begins Friday he'll hold a 20-point lead.
"Our lead going into the Countdown is a little smaller this time. I know how important 10 points can be because I've lost championships by two points (2012) and eight points (2000).
"That's why qualifying points are so important," he said of earning three points as the quickest in a session with second quick getting two and third best getting one. "We want to take away every single point we can on every qualifying run. We need to focus on that before we get to eliminations on Sundays."
Capps nearly reached another milestone in his career on Sept. 4 when he advanced to the final round of the U.S. Nationals for the first time in 21 previous tries. Despite coming up short of winning the biggest event of the year, he left with a good feeling.
"It was heart-breaking to lose in the final round but we accomplished our biggest goal to this point by starting the Countdown first in points," he said.
"And another good part was our NAPA Dodge ran very good. We are very comfortable about having our back to performing the way it did in the first half of the season," he said of winning six titles - including April's Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX - in eight final rounds through the first 13 events.
RON CAPPS, NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T - regular season, reigning world champ
Pts Events Wins Rup Semi Qtr 1st rd Poles DNQ W/L
2017 1st 18 6 3 2 4 3 0 0 40-12
CAREER 501 56* 53 91 102 181 21 19 666-426
* 55 FC/1 TF
Career best time, speed: 3.839 sec. (2017, Phoenix); 333.58 mph (2017, Phoenix)
BY THE NUMBERS
Last event: Sept. 4, Indy: Qualified No. 8, lost in championship round to J.R. Todd
2016 Fall zMAX: Qualified No. 2, lost in semifinals to event winner John Force
2017 Four-Wide: Qualified No. 6, won in championship round over Jack Beckman, J.R. Todd, Matt Hagan
Career Fall zMAX: Wins 1 (2012); Runner-ups 0; Poles 0
Career at zMAX: Wins 2 (20120, 2017); Runner-ups 0; Poles 1 (2014)
COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP
(Reset for six-race playoff; wins in parenthesis; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. RON CAPPS (6) 2,100 -----
2. Robert Hight (2) 2,080 -20
3. MATT HAGAN (3) 2,070 -30
4. JACK BECKMAN (2) 2,060 -40
5. TOMMY JOHNSON JR. 2,050 -50
6. Courtney Force 2,040 -60
7. John Force (1) 2,030 -70
8. J.R. Todd (2) 2,020 -80
9. Tim Wilkerson 2,010 -90
10. Cruz Pedregon 2,000 -100
FINAL REGULAR SEASON
(Official after U.S. Nationals; 18 of 24 events: wins in parenthesis; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. RON CAPPS (6) 1,530
2. Robert Hight (2) 1,344
3. MATT HAGAN (3) 1,280
4. JACK BECKMAN (2) 1,275
5. TOMMY JOHNSON JR. (1) 1,229
6. Courtney Force 1,072
7. John Force (1) 1,007
9. J.R. Todd (2) 959
8. Tim Wilkerson 902