There was only one track in Ron Capps’ storied 26-year career
where a national event victory had eluded him, but the Don Schumacher Racing
(DSR) veteran Funny Car driver finally checked the historic Indianapolis
dragstrip off that list by driving his HEMI®-powered Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
to the winner’s circle at the Dodge NHRA Indy Nationals presented by Pennzoil.
“Leave it to 2020 to get my first win at Indianapolis,” said Capps of the emotional and long-awaited victory. “For a driver to be able to say that he’s won at every track on the (NHRA) circuit is pretty incredible and it shows you the talent that I’ve had around me since I started my career.”
“For Dodge to jump in and to win a Dodge race for them and Pennzoil, means something,” adds Capps. “This is hallowed ground and I really started to wonder if I would ever win here. It may not be the U.S. Nationals, but maybe we broke the yolk. This is still a place that has so many great memories and such a great rich history.”
After qualifying third, Capps drove his HEMI-powered ride through eliminations with wins over Tim Wilkerson, Blake Alexander, and Bob Tasca, earning lane choice along the way over his final round opponent, J.R. Todd and then his first win of the year. It was Capps’ first final round appearance since his 2019 win at Brainerd.
Capps’ 64th career Funny Car victory, second only to John Force (151) on the all-time win list, was earned at the third Indianapolis-based event since the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ returned to racing following a four-month hiatus due to the on-going pandemic, and saw the 2016 world champion bounce back from a pair of disappointing first-round losses to DSR teammates in the first two events.
“The last two weeks were hard with these two races here,” says Capps who jumped up two positions to fourth place in the championship points battle. “After the break, we came back and knew that we were on limited time to make a run in the points. We came back from the hiatus and I didn’t get a whole lot of laps in the car. We didn’t get to do a whole lot of testing like some other teams did. The one saving grace is that I’ve got a great team and (Rahn) Tobler gives me a great car so that helped. I just haven’t had a whole lot of confidence mainly because we haven’t had a whole lot of runs. We’ve been knocked out first round so this helped me a bunch. This was a feel good weekend on many different fronts; my confidence is back and Tobler found his racecar.”
With the win, DSR extends a streak of nine consecutive final round appearances for one of their Dodge Charger SRT Hellcats that dates back to September 2019 (Charlotte), and puts the team just one victory away from an unprecedented NHRA milestone of 350 national event wins.
The DSR Dodge Charger foursome is also now 1-2-3-4 in the Funny Car championship points standings with each driver having earned a Wally (trophy) of their own this year to date (and one rain postponed final (Indy 2) between Matt Hagan and Jack Beckman yet to be run during the U.S. Nationals.)
Taking over the lead in the championship chase from teammate Beckman is Tommy Johnson Jr. who came into race day with a win (Phoenix) and his second No. 1 qualifier position in three races aboard his MD Anderson Dodge, but fell short of adding more points to his lead after a quarterfinal loss to Paul Lee.
Seeded second for eliminations, Hagan and his Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye remain third in the standings after a first round win over Beckman but encountering a setback in the quarterfinals with a loss to Bob Tasca.
After advancing to the final round of eliminations in three of four national events this season, Beckman’s difficulties in qualifying put him at a disadvantage for the first time this year with a 15th place on the eliminations ladder. His first-round loss dropped him into second place in the Funny Car championship battle from his position as points leader which he had held since the start of the season.
In Top Fuel competition, Leah Pruett drove her demon-red, black and chrome Mopar Dodge SRT Hellcat Redeye dragster from a No. 3 seeded position on the eliminations ladder through to a semifinal match up against Steve Torrence after victories over Shawn Langdon and Pat Dakin. It was her third semifinal appearance this season and while she is still chasing a win this season, Pruett is third in the Top Fuel rankings.
The next scheduled events on the ever-changing calendar are the NHRA Southern Nationals, slated to take place in Atlanta, Ga, on Aug, 28-30, followed by the prestigious NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis on Sept. 3-6.
NOTES and QUOTES:
Jack Beckman, Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car
(No. 15 Qualifier – 4.621 seconds at 179.90 mph)
Round 1: (0.045-second reaction time, 4.293 seconds at 219.01 mph) lost to No. 2 Matt Hagan (0.066/3.993/296.50
“I’ve never been done on Sunday at 10:40 in the morning. It’s a surreal feeling with an early start to get beat first round. We’re not gonna ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’ this. We pushed hard both qualifying runs and it was just a little too aggressive. It put us in the unenviable position of running a teammate who had qualified good and had better data than us. That’s drag racing. On a perfect day, you beat four people and they hand you a trophy and it’s damn near impossible. We will pick up the pieces for our next race. I’m not sure when and where that is. These are unprecedented times. We will be back to the form we were in late last year and early this year and we will make an absolute run at that championship.”
Matt Hagan, Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car
(No. 2 Qualifier – 3.982 seconds at 320.81 mph)
Round 1: (0.066-second reaction time, 3.993 seconds at 296.50 mph) beat No. 15 Jack Beckman (0.045/4.293/219.01)
Round 2: (0.087/4.881/195.17) lost to No. 7 Bob Tasca (0.074/4.034/311.70)
“We still had a really good race weekend. We qualified No. 2 and went some rounds and took out (Jack) Beckman, the points leader. We definitely closed the gap to the top and the DSR Funny Cars are still 1-2-3 and (Ron) Capps had a good day. The points are tight. We have a strong car and sometimes it gets hot and greasy and we make a lot of power and it can be more challenging to reel that in. The crew did a great job, again. (Crew Chief) Dickie (Venables) continues to do a great job running this car and we put on a great show for our partners at Dodge and Mopar and Pennzoil this weekend at the Dodge Nationals, and we’ve had a hell of a streak dating back to last season. We have a consistent and fast race car and I’m ready to go whenever they tell us to come back.”
Tommy Johnson Jr., MD Anderson Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car
(No. 1 Qualifier – 3.976 seconds at 318.54 mph)
Round 1: (0.084-second reaction time, 3.955 seconds at 322.81 mph) beats No. 16 Alexis DeJoria (0.088/4.363/209.92)
Round 2: (0.070/4.689/178.50) lost to No. 9 Paul Lee (0.092/4.140/270.70)
“That was very surprising. I wasn’t expecting that second round. We’ve had such a flawless race car going down the track each lap and it caught me off guard when it pulled them loose out there. It seemed like it was on a good run and just drove into smoke. It’s both surprising and frustrating, but you can’t get too disappointed. You lick your wounds and move on, learn from this and be better. We’ll figure out why and address that. To qualify No. 1 again and come out of here with the points lead is a positive.”
Ron Capps, NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car
(No. 3 Qualifier – 3.987 seconds at 317.05 mph)
Round 1: (0.078-second reaction time, 4.056 seconds at 273.61 mph) beat No. 14 Tim Wilkerson (0.086/4.413/203.25)
Round 2: (0.069/3.990/320.51) beat No. 6 Blake Alexander (0.088/4.036/318.99)
Round 3: (0.045/4.065/316.30) beat No. 7 Bob Tasca (0.089/9.713/77.18)
Round 4: (0.065/4.110/294.63) beat No. 5 J.R. Todd, (0.074/10.318/80.06)
“This track makes you run it. This is not the kind of track where you roll up to it, stab the gas and go straight down the track. It’s got little nuances that make it really unique. You look at the Indy 500 and there’s things some drivers master and you look at Daytona and there’s things that some drivers have mastered there. You really have to know this track. Rahn Tobler and I work really well together through those nuances. Both lanes have different things that you have to prepare for and they can certainly hurt you.
“This trophy is going to my wife who has been coming to this racetrack with me for 26 years and has ridden that emotional roller coaster with me getting close and not winning. On top of it her birthday is always at the Indy (U.S. Nationals) race and all those years she’s rod along with me and seen the emotional wreck I’ve been not winning and knowing how much it means to me, I just called home and she was crying. It just means so much to us.”
Leah Pruett, Mopar Dodge//SRT Top Fuel Dragster
(No. 3 Qualifier – 3.840 seconds at 318.02 mph)
Round 1: (0.074-second reaction time, 3.749 seconds at 325.53 mph) beats No. 14 Shawn Langdon (0.055/3.839/304.19)
Round 2: (0.133/3.829/313.07) beats No.10 Pat Dakin (0.066/3.905/312.71)
Round 3: (0.084/3.861/316.60) loss to No. 14 Steve Torrence (0.078/3.819/320.51)
“Another semifinal finish here in Indy for this Dodge Redeye team. We grabbed some points during qualifying and we keep advancing along with the top cars. Unfortunately, we brought a knife to a gun fight in the semis. There was more out there on the track then we anticipated. We’ll regroup and we have a ton of momentum with this team. We got Cory’s (McClenathan) car on track this weekend. Wherever our next race is at, I feel like we’ve got a very good race car. The car is doing what we ask it to. Our DSM parts and pieces are performing well. We need to make the right steps and keep charging hard.”
NHRA Championship Points Standings:
Following the Dodge NHRA Indy Nationals
FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
- Tommy Johnson Jr. (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) – 416 (1)
- Jack Beckman (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) – 403 (1)
- Matt Hagan (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) – 388 (1)
- Ron Capps (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) – 314 (1)
- Bob Tasca III – 298
- J.R. Todd – 292
- Tim Wilkerson – 270
- Alexis DeJoria – 217
- Paul Lee – 193
- Cruz Pedregon – 202
TOP FUEL (season wins in parentheses)
- Doug Kalitta – 436 (1)
- Steve Torrance – 353 (2)
- Leah Pruett (Mopar Dodge//SRT) – 347
- Billy Torrance – 290 (1)
- Justin Ashley – 278
- Terry McMillen – 273
- Antron Brown – 263
- Clay Millican – 240
- Shawn Langdon – 214
Brittany Force – 153