Ron Capps and the NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car team raced to victory three times during the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season to secure a fourth-place finish, Capps’ 14th consecutive Top 10 year-end ranking. Including the three event wins, the 2016 NHRA Funny Car world champion powered the NAPA Dodge to six final round appearances and ended the year with a No. 1 qualifier, his 22nd overall, at the season-ending event in Pomona, California.
Two of Capps’ 2018 event wins allowed him to cross two milestones off of his personal bucket list. At the NHRA Northwest Nationals, Capps raced to victory for the 60th time in his illustrious drag racing career. Shortly after, at the NHRA Carolina Nationals, he locked-in Wally trophy No. 61, his 60th as a Funny Car driver.
Capps ranks second in all-time Funny Car wins, and his 61 total wins, which includes his first NHRA title driving a Top Fuel dragster in 1995, rank ninth (tied) among NHRA's professional categories. He is one of 16 drivers in NHRA history to have won in both of drag racing’s premier categories.
The native Californian, who lives near San Diego, celebrates his 25th NHRA anniversary during the 2019 season. It will be his 15th year driving for Don Schumacher Racing, and 12th representing NAPA AUTO PARTS. Capps and the team, led by champion crew chief Rahn Tobler, begin the year with a brand-new cutting-edge Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat body, having transitioned from the Dodge Charger R/T following the 2018 season.
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 six 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 wheel 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’ 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 is Capps’ 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 slotback 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.
After high school, Capps began competing in racquetball and developed into a premier ‘Open’ division player.
He studied computer software for four years in college before opting to pursue a professional racing career.
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 the 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 the 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. 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.
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