Capps pumped up with fourth straight NHRA title for NAPA as crew chief Tobler shows his NAPA Know How at Topeka
The Funny Car final round Sunday in the NHRA Heartland Nationals was going to be “déjà vu all over again” for Don Schumacher Racing’s Ron Capps or Matt Hagan.
Hagan was trying to replicate what he did a year ago at Topeka, Kan., when he set both NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world records and concluded his visit to Heartland Park by winning the Wally Trophy.
Instead, Capps and the NAPA AUTO PARTS 2017 Dodge Charger R/T Powered by Pennzoil was the one with the flashback as he beat Hagan to win his won their fourth consecutive event title to ruin his teammate’s perfect weekend.
The win by Capps’ NAPA AUTO PARTS team led by crew chief Rahn Tobler and assistant Eric Lane along with the winning effort of teammate Antron Brown and the Matco Tools team enabled DSR to sweep both nitro titles at the same Mello Yello event for the fifth time in eight races this year and for the 66th time since 2004.
The 54th Funny Car win by reigning world champion Capps enabled him to extend his points lead to 119 over Hagan. Capps has won 16 consecutive rounds and 2013 is the last time a pro driver has done that since John Force.
“Unbelievable,” said Capps, whose top speed of the weekend was 325 that paled compared to 338-mph runs by teammate Hagan, and Courtney Force and Robert Hight of John Force Racing. “We couldn’t go toe to toe with those guys in qualifying but no one is better that (crew chief) Rahn Tobler on race day.
“Those speeds are great, they’re great for headlines, (but) Mello Yello championships are won by E.T.s and especially race wins.
“We are extremely bummed we couldn’t get in there and trade blows Friday and Saturday with the other teams running those big speeds and all the headlines were going out across the world: Funny Cars were going almost 340 mph. We were fighting a little bit of an issue with the car and it was in the fuel system.”
Capps, who qualified seventh, was surprised when he arrived at the track Sunday morning and Tobler was having his NAPA AutoCare crew change the fuel pump.
“To change a fuel pump on Sunday is incredible,” he said. “It took a lot of guts for him to do that and look what happened.
“I’ve got a crew chief that can adapt to anything. It just showed you what kind of team can adjust to being OK in qualifying – I qualified seventh – and then showing up race day and doing what we’ve been doing the last three races. That’s what we did at the end of last year to win the championship. Trust me, I’m just the luckiest dude in the world, man. I had nothing to do with it, I just stepped on the gas together and held the car together in the right lane and just so blessed.”
The Mello Yello Series will be off next weekend to honor Memorial Day and returns the following week to begin the four-race Eastern Swing in June that begins at Epping with races following at Englishtown, N.J., Bristol, Tenn., and Norwalk.
The following are official results and standings after the NHRA Heartland Nationals:
Event winner: Ron Capps (Don Schumacher Racing)
No. 1 qualifier: Matt Hagan (Don Schumacher Racing), 3.802 sec.-world record, 338.85 mph-world record
RON CAPPS, NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
Crew chief: Rahn Tobler; assistant: Eric Lane
Qualified: No. 7
First round: CAPPS (4.606 sec., 179.02 mph) def. Cruz Pedregon (9.778, 81.34)
Second round: CAPPS (3.866, 325.45) def. Courtney Force (3.902, 330.00)
Semifinals: CAPPS (3.908, 323.97) def. Robert Hight (6.168, 118.16)
Final: CAPPS (3.924, 321.42) def. Matt Hagan (3.985, 318.92)
FRIDAY: 3.870 sec., 325.22 mph, (Session 1); rained out, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 7.296, 88.35, (Session 3); 3.861, 321.88, (Session 4)
Best Time, Speed: 3.839 sec. (2017 Phoenix); 333.58 mph (2017 Phoenix)
Career at Topeka: Wins 4 (2017, 2009, 2006, 1998); Runner-ups (2012, 2000); Poles 0
2017 NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES STANDINGS
(Official after Topeka; 8th of 24 events; wins in parenthesis; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. RON CAPPS (4) 748 —–
2. MATT HAGAN (2) 629 -119
3. John Force (1) 524 -224
4. Robert Hight 518 -230
5. JACK BECKMAN 502 -246
6. Courtney Force 464 -284
7. TOMMY JOHNSON JR. (1) 461 -287
8. J.R. Todd 378 -370
9. Tim Wilkerson 360 -388
10. Jonnie Lindberg 318 -430