BROWNSBURG, Ind. (March 14, 2017) - Ron Capps and the NAPA AUTO PARTS team led by crew chief Rahn Tobler are ranked second in championship points lead after two races and only 62 points out of the Funny Car points heading to the 48th annual NHRA Gatornationals this weekend at Gainesville, Fla.
That's impressive for the reigning NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car world champion but even more astounding that Tobler and assistant Eric Lane with the NAPA AutoCare Centers crew have devoted Friday qualifying sessions to improving their Dodge Charger R/T powered by Pennzoil.
It can be risky to use any qualifying session for anything other than going as quickly as possible but the only risks Tobler takes are calculated ... very calculated.
First, it paid off at the opener at Pomona, Calif., when Capps shot up from No.9 to No. 4 qualifying spot on Saturday and advanced to the semifinals where he lost to eventual event winner and Don Schumacher Racing teammate Matt Hagan.
Two weeks later at the next event near Phoenix, Capps made another huge leap on the last qualifying day when he shot up to No. 3 from No. 13 with a time of 3.839 seconds at 333.58, both of which are his career bests. On race day, the NAPA Dodge advanced to the final round where, again, he was sidelined by Hagan.
When a driver has a start like Hagan, it would be expected that his points lead heading to the next race would be considerably more than 62 points, which is equivalent to a little more than three Sunday round wins.
"Whenever you get to the final round you don't want to let that trophy get away from you," said Capps, who owns 50 of those NHRA Wallys. "But it was a great race for the fans, and a great run for our NAPA team.
In that final, Hagan's 3.878 just edged Capps' 3.883 and both were clocked at 330.88 mph.
"Hagan's team couldn't be having a better start to the season, and that's why I'm so impressed with Tobler and our NAPA AutoCare crew for keeping us so close to him in points.
"I learned a long time ago not to question what Tobler does. He's proving it again so far this season. That's why I tell everybody he's the best in the business."
This weekend at Gainesville, Capps could be in position to win his first pole at the track. He certainly knows directions to the winner's circle; he has won the Gatornationals three times in five final rounds and was runner-up a year ago after winning in 2015.
RON CAPPS: NAPA AUTO PARTS 2017 Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car - reigning world champion
Pts Events Wins Rup Semi Qtr 1st rd Poles DNQ W/L
2017 2nd 2 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 5-2
2016 1st 24 5 (10 finals) 5 7 5 1 4 1 54-18
CAREER 485 50 (49 FC/1 TF) 51 90 98 178 21 19 671-416
Best Time, Speed: 3.839 sec., (Phoenix, 2017); 333.58 mph, (Phoenix 2017)
Last event (Feb. 24-26 at Phoenix): Qualified No. 3, lost in championship round to DSR's Matt Hagan
2016 at Gainesville: Qualified No. 5, lost in final round to Robert Hight
Career at Gainesville: Wins 3 (2015, 2006-2007); Runner-ups 2 (2000, 2016); Poles 0
2017 NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES STANDINGS
(Official after Phoenix; 2 of 24 events; wins in parenthesis; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. MATT HAGAN (2) 240 -----
2. RON CAPPS 178 -62
3. Courtney Force 140 -100
4. TOMMY JOHNSON JR. 134 -106
5. John Force 112 -128
6. J.R. Todd 105 -135
7. Jim Campbell 102 -138
8. JACK BECKMAN 90 -150
8. Tim Wilkerson 90 -150
10. Robert Hight 88 -152
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