NHRA Funny Car driver Ron Capps headed into the Countdown to the Championship with a 30-point lead over his closest rival Del Worsham. However, his season has been far from incident free.
While it’s true that the Don Schumacher Racing driver has five race wins to his name in 2016, he also failed to qualify for one race in Las Vegas, and then rolled one of his cars in the sand when his chutes failed to deploy in Indianapolis.
What appears to be more troublesome is the fact that the car Capps rolled in Indy is one that has taken him to four of his five wins this season. With that car destroyed, the car that Capps plans to complete the Countdown in is the one that he had last raced back in Vegas. However, Capps is not worried at all.
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"That day, when we didn’t qualify, we thought it was something to do with the car," admitted Capps in an exclusive with FOX Sports. "It’s easy to point at the car and just say ‘that is the problem, let’s go to a backup car.’ Come to find out, we found the problem was deeper and the gremlin that we had within the race car was in the timing system.
Capps was second fastest in Friday qualifying for the NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway, just 0.002 back of Tommy Johnson Jr. On Saturday, Capps held his second place and has extended his points lead to 42.
But while Capps’ car seems to be holding up and, with five wins, his team is evidently strong, he is all too aware that in this sport, there are no guarantees.
"I lost a championship by two points one year, by sx points another year," explains Capps. "I’ve led the points before personally coming into the Countdown and, while it helps, if you look at the history of the Countdown, there’s been a lot of drivers that have won championships from positions that weren’t leading.
"TJ is the number one qualifier and he came into the Countdown seventh… like a long way back, so that just shows you its going to be anyone’s ballgame."
Were he to win his first world championship this year, Capps says he would look back on Vegas and Indianapolis as good character-building events.
"We got to Las Vegas and didn’t qualify," says Capps. "We got all four qualifying runs so it wasn’t because of weather or anything, and we just flat out didn’t qualify for the show. It’s a hard thing, when you’re a big-sponsored car, to understand, that we got outran by some cars that only run two or three races a year.
"We brought out another car, we won all those races, well that was the car I wrecked in Indianapolis. Guess what, the car that we brought back out is the car that we started the year off, that we parked after Vegas, that we won Pomona to start the year off with, that’s the car now that we went to. And from the time that we put it on the track, after we crashed the other car on Sunday in Indy, it’s been like it didn’t miss a beat.
"Missing (Vegas) was a real character-building weekend and, I think that the crash on Sunday in Indy and having to go back to a backup car, it showed a lot of people that that was character building for our team, so I feel very good right now about everything."
If Capps was to run into more trouble this year, his backup car would be a car that won races for him back in 2012 and 2013, which the team will test at zMAX Dragway on Monday.
Coverage of final eliminations for the NHRA Carolina Nationals begins at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on FS1.