LAS VEGAS, NV – March 22, 2016 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – The carryover of strong momentum and performances from the end of one year and into the beginning of the next can be a difficult thing to master when competitors are dealing with 10,000-horsepower Funny Cars.
But class standout Ron Capps and his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T team seems to have found the formula so far in 2016. Coming off a string of five straight semifinal appearances to end 2015, Capps has kept that groove and then some to open the new NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
Capps won the opening race of the year in Pomona, qualified first in Phoenix, posted a runner-up finish at the Gatornationals and is leading the points as the NHRA powers back to Las Vegas, April 1-3, for the 17th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“It’s always awesome for a lot of reasons,” Capps said of the fast start. “We ended the season very, very well in Pomona and actually we had a pretty darned good Countdown. All but one race we went to the semifinals, so we were very consistent. Del (Worsham) and Jack (Beckman) just had a much better Countdown.
“So end of the year, we just wanted to sort of take everything apart and put everything back together and worked on a few things and tune-up wise left it alone and sure enough we rolled out of Pomona No. 2 qualifier and ended up winning the race. We have a great hot rod now. I’ve got a lot of confidence now as a driver for sure.”
Richie Crampton (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including three hours of live finals coverage starting at 5 p.m. (ET) on Sunday. It is the fourth of 24 events during the 2016 season and Capps couldn’t be more pleased as he continues his quest for a first Funny Car world championship.
Ron Capps on his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T
Capps, who won twice in 2015, had no trouble with consistency in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship a year ago, finishing fourth in points after his string of semifinal finishes. That included a No. 1 qualifying run of 3.886 seconds in Pomona, which is the type of performance Capps knows is necessary to ultimately succeed in the highest form in Funny Car.
“I’m confident already in the car and (crew chief Rahn) Tobler already has just a very consistent car,” said Capps, who has 45 career wins. “But now he’s turned up the notch a little bit when he had to and I think that’s sort of been the difference. I really think during the Countdown, that’s when it’s going to count. You’re going to have to throw the big numbers like Del and Jack did from time to time last year. Had we done that a couple times, we would be the champion. I think that was kind of the only missing thing we had as a team.”
Everything else about Capps’ team has been impressive and that doesn’t mean just this year. Capps believes one of the team’s biggest reasons for success and consistency is a continuity of a group that’s proven themselves multiple times over the years.
“We’ve been NAPA, I believe, eight years and pretty much had the same core group of guys,” Capps said. “It’s been pretty nice every off-season to know you’ve got the same guys buckling you in, the same guys taking everything apart. That’s always nice as a race car driver to know that everything’s just kind of continuing on from the year before.”
The Funny Car class continues to get more impressive as well, and Capps will have to deal with the likes of John Force, Gainesville winner Robert Hight, defending world champion Worsham, Phoenix winner Tim Wilkerson, Alexis DeJoria, national record holder Beckman, Matt Hagan, Courtney Force, Cruz Pedregon and Tommy Johnson Jr.
It’s never an easy task, but Capps does take some luxury in the way of his strong relationship with Tobler.
“We’ve won a lot of races,” Capps said. “I’ve gotten to work with Roland Leong, Ed ‘The Ace’ McCulloch, the late Dale Armstrong, some pretty cool crew chiefs. Tobler, I really enjoy racing with him on the racetrack and then away from the track. There are not a lot of people at the racetrack I would go spend, you know, dinner out with, and maybe go see a concert that are crew chiefs.
“But he’s one of those guys that I really enjoy being around. I think I’ve won more races with him than anybody as far as a crew chief than I’ve had in the past. He’s just a lot of fun to be around.”
In Top Fuel, Crampton powered to victory over Larry Dixon in the final round last year to earn his first victory of the season. He will face off against rising star Leah Pritchett, who won her first career race in Phoenix, eight-time world champ Tony Schumacher, who has eight career victories at the facility, Doug Kalitta, Winternationals winner Steve Torrence, reigning world champ Antron Brown, J.R. Todd, Shawn Langdon, Clay Millican and Gainesville winner and points leader Brittany Force.
In the all-new Pro Stock class, Enders will look to get back to her championship-winning ways after suffering two first round losses to open the season in Pomona and Phoenix. Standing in her way, though, will be her teammates Drew Skillman and Jeg Coughlin Jr., the Summit Racing duo of Greg Anderson and Jason Line, who have combined to win the first three races, Phoenix No. 1 qualifier Bo Butner and Chris McGaha, who was runner-up to points leader Line in Phoenix.
The sleek new Pro Stock cars feature fuel-injected engines, shorter wheelie bars, flat hoods and a 10,500 RPM rev-limiter.
The DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals is always a big weekend for Pro Stock drivers as the all-star K&N Horsepower Challenge showcases the Pro Stock class in style. Eight of the best Pro Stock drivers will duel it out for bragging rights and a hefty paycheck on Saturday of race weekend. Enders is the defending K&N Horsepower Challenge winner.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
The event also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. on Friday, April 1 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, April 2, at 1 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for noon on Sunday, April 3.
DENSO SPARK PLUGS NHRA NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 17th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals, the fourth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in three categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock – earn points leading to 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. The race also will feature competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series.
WHERE: The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas. Track is located approximately 15 miles north of downtown Las Vegas off Interstate 15.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, April 1-3
FRIDAY, April 1 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m.
SATURDAY, April 2– LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:10 and 4:05 p.m.
K&N HORSEPOWER CHALLENGE at 1, 4 and 5 p.m.
SUNDAY, April 3 – Pre-race ceremonies, 11:15 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at noon
SATURDAY, April 2, FOX Sports 1 (FS1) will televise one hour of qualifying highlights at 11 p.m. (ET)
SUNDAY, April 3, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying highlights at 9 p.m. (ET)
SUNDAY, April 3, FS1 will televise three hours of live finals coverage at 5 p.m. (ET)
2015 EVENT WINNERS: Richie Crampton, Top Fuel; John Force, Funny Car; Erica Enders, Pro Stock; Enders, K&N Horsepower Challenge.
MOST VICTORIES: Larry Dixon, 4, TF; Tony Schumacher, 4, TF; Robert Hight, 3, FC; Greg Anderson, 3, PS; Jeg Coughlin, 3, PS; Kenny Bernstein, 2, TF; John Force, 2, FC; Cruz Pedregon, 2, FC; Mike Edwards, 2, PS; Erica Enders, 2, PS; Allen Johnson, 2, PS.
MOST K&N HORSEPOWER CHALLENGE VICTORIES: Greg Anderson, 4; Kurt Johnson, 4; Jeg Coughlin, 3; Bob Glidden, 3; Warren Johnson, 3; Larry Morgan, 3; Bruce Allen, 2; Erica Enders, 2; Allen Johnson, 2; Jim Yates, 2;
Top Fuel – 3.722 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. ’15 and 332.67 mph by Shawn Langdon, Oct. ’15.
Funny Car – 3.931 sec. by Tommy Johnson Jr., Oct. ’15 and 325.92 mph by Del Worsham, Oct. ’15.
Pro Stock – 6.559 sec. and 210.28 mph by Erica Enders, Oct. ’15.
Top Fuel – 3.680 sec. by Antron Brown, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.879 sec. by Jack Beckman, March ‘16, Gainesville, Fla. and 331.45 mph by Matt Hagan, Nov. ’15, Pomona, Calif.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C. and 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 644-4444. Tickets also available online at www.lvms.com/tickets.
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, CA — Point Standings following the third of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series –
1. Brittany Force, 251; 2. Clay Millican, 210; 3. Doug Kalitta, 205; 4. Steve Torrence, 199; 5. Terry McMillen, 178; 6. Leah Pritchett, 166; 7. J.R. Todd, 157; 8. Tony Schumacher, 155; 9. Richie Crampton, 153; 10. Antron Brown, 149.
1. Robert Hight, 280; 2. Ron Capps, 279; 3. John Force, 221; 4. Jack Beckman, 205; 5. Courtney Force, 201; 6. Del Worsham, 189; 7. Tim Wilkerson, 183; 8. Chad Head, 162; 9. Alexis DeJoria, 119; 10. Matt Hagan, 118.
1. Jason Line, 337; 2. Greg Anderson, 331; 3. Bo Butner, 233; 4. Drew Skillman, 205; 5. Chris McGaha, 161; 6. (tie) Jeg Coughlin, 160; Allen Johnson, 160; 8. Vincent Nobile, 138; 9. Alex Laughlin, 121; 10. Erica Enders, 97.
Pro Stock Motorcycle:
1. Eddie Krawiec, 129; 2. Hector Arana, 99; 3. Andrew Hines, 79; 4. LE Tonglet, 74; 5. Chip Ellis, 62; 6. (tie) Michael Ray, 52; Jerry Savoie, 52; Jim Underdahl, 52; 9. Angelle Sampey, 35; 10. (tie) Scotty Pollacheck, 33. Melissa Surber, 33.