POMONA, CA – February 7, 2017 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – The last time Ron Capps was at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, he was celebrating his first career Funny Car world championship with a fan turnout the longtime standout will always remember. It was the perfect finish to an incredible 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season that also started with a victory at the historic track.
Returning to Pomona for this weekend’s 57th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals, where Capps is the defending race winner, the defending world champion is eager for a banner start to 2017. Capps also knows it will be a magical moment to return to the scene that provided the backdrop for the culmination of his dream season.
“It’s going to be awesome,” Capps said. “Anytime you can start the season off great, it’s cool. But the Winternationals holds such a historic value to our sport. It’s a great race and with the conditions we see this time of year, you know it’s going to be fast. When we clinched at the track last year and had all those fans there, it was something else. It just fit our team perfectly and it was great to enjoy that moment with our fans.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Capps (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) were winner’s of last year’s tradition-rich event, which will for the first time in its history feature Sunday’s eliminations live on the FOX national broadcast channel. It is the first of 24 races in 2017 and the event will air on FOX Sports 1 on Friday and Saturday, and FOX on Sunday.
Last year’s Winternationals victory was the first of five for Capps, who also reached 50 career victories in his quest for a world championship. The world title was the one thing that had eluded Capps throughout his career, but even after finally claiming it, he remains just as motivated.
“I’ve never had to sit down and think about what motivates me,” said Capps, who has three Winternationals victories. “I just hate losing, that’s the best way to put it. You have this mountain everyone has a goal of climbing and last year we got three-fourths to the top and we just started charging to the top. But that just motivated us for this year. I know I don’t have a problem motivating myself and seeing (crew chief Rahn) Tobler, I know winning last year motivated him.”
Capps’ 2016 season was built around incredible runs and track records, but also centered around one consistent performance after another. That was evident in 10 final round appearances and advancing to at least the semifinals in the first five races in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship.
The team tried plenty of new things at preseason testing in Phoenix, including debuting a new 2017 chassis, but there were still plenty of runs in the 3.80s. That’s a good sign for Capps and the team, who will again have to deal with a multitude of challengers in the remarkable Funny Car class, including Don Schumacher Racing teammates Matt Hagan, Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr., as well as 16-time world champion John Force, Courtney Force and Del Worsham.
“For us, it’s a matter of winning races,” Capps said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. The season is a grind, but it’s worth it. It’s great for us because I walk in the pits and know I’m hopping in one of the most prepared race cars there is, and I know we have a good chance to go low E.T. and win the race. We’re all trying to outdo each other at DSR, so obviously that raises the bar for everyone.”
In Top Fuel, Torrence defeated Doug Kalitta in the event’s final round en route to three wins and a third-place finish in 2016. He’ll square off against the likes of back-to-back world champ Antron Brown, Tony Schumacher, Brittany Force and Leah Pritchett.
The duo of Anderson and Jason Line dominated the first year of the redesigned Pro Stock class. Anderson, a four-time world champ, won the season-opener, but Line claimed the world title. Past champs Erica Enders, Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Allen Johnson hope for a different conclusion in 2017.
The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. As always, fans have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers with an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity 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.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 10 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Feb. 11, also at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 12.
Kids 12 & under get in free with a general admission ticket, while students save 50 percent on general admission at the gate with a student ID. Military and first responders save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate. To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. For more information, visit www.NHRA.com.
CIRCLE K NHRA WINTERNATIONALS
WHAT: 57th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals, the first 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 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Pomona, Calif. Track is located off I-10 at Fairplex Drive. Go north on Fairplex drive.
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 1,100 feet above sea level; Track direction is north to south.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, Feb. 9-12
THURSDAY, Feb. 9 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying at 8:15 a.m.
FRIDAY, Feb. 10 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations at 8:15 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m.
SATURDAY, Feb. 11 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations at 8:15 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, Feb. 12 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Friday, Feb. 10, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying at 7 p.m. (ET).
Saturday, Feb. 11, FS1 will televise one hour of live qualifying at 1 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, Feb. 12, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying at 2 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, Feb. 12, FOX will televise three hours of live eliminations coverage at 4 p.m. (ET).
WINNERS: Steve Torrence, Top Fuel; Ron Capps, Funny Car; Greg Anderson, Pro Stock
MOST VICTORIES: John Force, FC – 7; Bob Glidden, PS – 7; Greg Anderson, PS- 6; Don Garlits, TF- 5; Warren Johnson, PS – 5; Don Prudhomme, TF/FC – 5; Larry Dixon, TF- 4; Jason Line, PS-4.
Top Fuel – 3.680 sec. by J.R. Todd, Nov. ’16 and 332.34 mph by Shawn Langdon, Nov. ’15
Funny Car – 3.825 sec. by Jack Beckman, Nov. ’16 and 332.84 mph by Beckman, Nov. ’16
Pro Stock – 6.480 sec. by Erica Enders, Nov. ’14 and 213.84 mph by Drew Skillman, Nov. ’15
Top Fuel – 3.671 sec. by Steve Torrence, July ’16, Sonoma, Calif.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.822 by Matt Hagan, Aug. ’16, Brainerd, Minn.; 335.57 mph by Hagan, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ’14, Englishtown N.J.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also available online at www.NHRA.com/tickets.
About National Hot Rod Association
Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 24 national events featuring the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and the NHRA Drags: Street Legal Style presented by AAA. NHRA also offers NHRA Jr. Street program for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 5 to 17. In addition, NHRA owns and operates five racing facilities: Atlanta Dragway in Georgia; Gainesville Raceway in Florida; National Trail Raceway in Ohio; Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis; and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California. For more information, log on to NHRA.com, or visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Source: National Hot Rod Association