Some drivers just seem to have a better fit at certain tracks.
That certainly can be said for veteran nitro Funny Car driver Ron Capps and Brainerd (Minn.) International Raceway.
Capps, who pilots the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat for Don Schumacher Racing, won at BIR for the sixth time in his career Sunday.
Capps got the jump on the starting line and clocked a 3.946-second elapsed time at 324.28 mph to edge DSR teammate Tommy Johnson Jr.’s 3.947-second lap at 319.98 mph.
Capps had a .055 reaction time and Johnson Jr.’s reaction time was 0.171.
“Tommy and duked it out,” said Capps, who won the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Series world championship. “(Rahn) Tobler (Capps’ crew chief) made a joke before we rolled out of the trailer, he said ‘How bout that, the two 5-disc clutch Funny Cars are going to duke it out in the finals. That car (Johnson Jr.’s) I feel like I’m racing a mirror of myself in a lot of different senses. First of all, J.C. (John Collins, Johnson Jr.’s crew chief) is a chip off the old block. He spent so many years working under Tobler. His approach is the same and their car is set-up almost identical to ours. It is Karate Kid and Mr. Miyagi every time. Going into that round, there was nothing strange to me when I staged. Tommy doesn’t mess around. Just like racing Robert Hight and certain guys, we just pull the pump and let our foot off the clutch and roll right in. There are no games, no waiting and we let our cars do the talking and Tommy has always been that way.
We both pulled the pumps and went right in. He must have got distracted. I think we staged around the same time so maybe that threw him off. It is very unlike Tommy Johnson to do that. I really appreciate him doing that at the right time and letting me win the final. The final round was another handful. I got on the radio in the shutdown area and I wasn’t even sure I won because I was on the radio telling Dustin (Heim, assistant crew chief) oh my gosh this thing was evil handling like it was in 2016 with the laid-back headers. I was fighting to not cross the finish line. I didn’t even know what was going on next door. I thought for sure, any minute he was going to come flying by me because I had my hands all over the place. It was very good timing and another reason why Rahn Tobler is as good as he is, his impeccable timing and we are going to have that car front-halved before Indy and it was already planned.”
Capps now has wins at Brainerd in 1998, 2001, 2012-2014 and 2019. He also been runner-up at BIR in 1997, 2009 and 2011. Only legendary John Force has more wins at Brainerd – 11 – than Capps.
“My wife’s family is from the Twin Cities area and we flew in early and had a family reunion on my wife’s side of the family on Tuesday night (Aug. 13) in Minneapolis,” Capps said. “Every year my wife’s family comes out and it is awesome to have family here. Me coming here with my wife’s family every year, the wins have been so much fun because you have family to enjoy it with. The fans around here take me in. They call me Ronnie. I never get called Ronnie anywhere but here. For some reason, it makes them feel like they know me. It is the way people are around here and I love them.”
This was Capps 64th career national event win and 63rd in Funny Car and one in Top Fuel in Seattle in 1995 driving for Roger Primm. Capps is fourth in the season point standings – 226 points behind leader Robert Hight and only 47 points behind second place Tommy Johnson Jr.
Capps’ victory parade consisted of wins over reigning world champion J.R. Todd, Jack Beckman, Shawn Langdon, and Johnson Jr. This was Capps third win of the season as he also snared wins in Atlanta, Richmond, Va., and Brainerd.
“We were a little bit under gunned (Sunday),” said Capps, who qualified No. 7 at Brainerd. “We didn’t qualify as well as we wanted. We had lane choice first round and not that it mattered because both lanes were great (Sunday). That car (Todd) is a final round at the finals in Pomona kind of race every time we race the yellow fellas. Obviously, that was a big win. I didn’t know what was going on with J.R. until I saw the replay later and I saw out of shape he got. It was a typical Rahn Tobler go out and try not make a mistake and not go low E.T., but just get down the track.”
Things didn’t get any easier for Capps after his victory over Todd.
“Beckman’s car went 87 low ET of the event and we did not have lane choice,” Capps said. “It was fun to sit in the lounge and really listen to what Tobler was going to do to the car to pick up in the middle of the track, little more mph here, little more E.T. in the middle of the track and try and run more speed. It all sounds great and I have heard this a million times, but it doesn’t always equate to going out and doing it and it was fun to be in the car and feel everything he talked about and accelerate and the G-meter and see the win light come on. We felt like we had to up our game because they had run so well the previous round. The list of teams you’re talking about are team you’re going to have to beat to win a world championship in the six races of the Countdown, no doubt about it so that was a huge round.
Langdon’s car is a threat to win a world championship. They are coming together at the right time with Del (Worsham) and those guys. I had my hands full. The semifinals the car was all over the place and we are having the car front-halved after this week. We have a lot of runs on it. I don’t know if all of sudden it said that was enough runs.”
Capps improved his elimination-round record this season to 27-14. Capps has a 21-17 elimination-round record against Johnson Jr.
“This is a race (Brainerd) that we circle because it is fun and it takes a little bit of the edge off because there’s so much going on around us,” Capps said. “This is race, where you don’t want to go into Indy and worry about having to move yourself position-wise and have to worry about getting in the top 10 or whatever the problem is. You want to race this race and get the finishing touches on your tune-up because guess what, you’re going to the biggest race in the world for us in Indianapolis and you want to go there just to win Indy. This is a crucial race. They have done such a great job here that we can come here and not worry about lane choice. NHRA did a great job of prepping and all that, but you really want to have your act together. There are a lot of teams testing here (Monday). It will be like a national event, we are not, thank God.
There are a lot of people a little nervous about their tune-ups and you don’t want to be one of them. I’m so happy we had great success (Sunday). We have a good running car and we can just go to Indy and try and win Indy. I have never won Indy personally so I would love to win it. Then, right after that it is six races for everything you dreamed of as a kid to win a world championship.”
Up next for Capps in the prestigious U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis Aug. 28-Sept. 2 at Lucas Oil Raceway.
“I feel really good leaving here (Brainerd) right now and heading to Indy because now we can treat Indy like it is,” Capps said. “If we can move up another couple positions in points that would be great. We just want to go to Indy and try and be a U.S. Nationals champion, something I have never done. It will be fun and huge and then it is playoff time. Just talking about it right now makes my hair stand on my neck because you have to get you r act together for that and this was a great example how to do it.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019