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Disappointment of rare successive first-round losses by Capps, lessened by his best run at Sonoma, big lead in Mello Yello standings

There is never a good time to post back-to-back losses in the opening round of an NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event, but when it happens the blow is lessened when you had dominated the 13 previous events.

For the first time since early June of 2015, reigning world champion and current points leader Ron Capps and the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T team were eliminated in the first round of Mello Yello competition Sunday in the NHRA Sonoma Nationals near San Francisco after a similar early exit the previous Sunday near Denver.

 But Capps and the team led by crew chief

Rahn Tobler and assistant Eric Lane with the NAPA AutoCare Centers crew will head for Seattle this week for the last event of the three-week Western Swing with a nearly insurmountable 183-point lead in the standings with three events remaining before it is determined which 10 drivers will race for the season title in the six-race Countdown to the Championship when points are reset with the regular season winner holding a 30-point lead.

The NAPA team had its worst qualifying performance of the season at Sonoma, which is the closest to Capps’ hometown of San Luis Obispo, Calif. His best run of the weekend was in the first round but his time of 3.941 seconds at 328.86 mph would have been quick enough to win three other match-ups but it wasn’t good enough to beat Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tommy Johnson Jr.’s 3.905 (332.02) for the second straight race.

 “The first thing Tobler will tell you is we’ve got to qualify better and we weren’t trying anything special,” said Capps, who has not qualified No. 1 in 15 events this season but has a career-best six event titles.

“We had a couple of runs where we had dropped cylinders and again I brag about how good Tobler is at catching these small things. It only took two or three runs. That was a great run in the first round.

“But we can’t qualify like that and race a good car like one of our teammates in the first round. The good thing is we’ve earned the points lead we have and can afford to give up a round or two here.”

“We are still striving to win the regular season and Seattle is obviously a great racetrack to look forward to. We’ve got to stay focused, and the fact is that our first round run at Sonoma was a great run and it gives us a lot of encouragement going to Seattle.

 DSR FUNNY CARS                                                                                                                               

Event winner: J.R. Todd (Kalitta Motorsports)

No. 1 qualifier: Robert Hight (John Force Racing), 3.807 sec., 339.87 mph-world record

RON CAPPS, NAPA AUTO PARTS 2017 Dodge Charger R/T                                                         

Crew chief: Rahn Tobler; Assistant: Eric Lane

SUNDAY’S CHAMPIONSHIP ELIMINATIONS

First round: Tommy Johnson Jr. (3.905 sec., 332.02 mph-career best) def. CAPPS (3.941, 328,86)

QUALIFYING RESULTS

Qualified: No. 12

FRIDAY: 4.032 sec., 306.12 mph, (Session 1); 7.001, 96.47, (Session 2)

SATURDAY: 4.000, 321.96, (Session 3); 5.571, 126.10, (Session 4)

SONOMA BY THE NUMBERS

Career best time, speed: 3.839 sec. (2017, Phoenix); 333.58 mph (2017, Phoenix)

Last event (July 23), Denver: Qualified: No. 5, lost in first round to teammate Tommy Johnson Jr.

A year ago at Sonoma: Qualified No. 5, lost in championship round to John Force

Career at Sonoma: Wins 4 (1997, 2010, 2011, 2013); Runner-up 3 (2002, 2005, 2016); Poles 1 (1998)

 2017 NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES FUNNY CAR STANDINGS

(Official after Sonoma; 15 of 24 events: wins in parenthesis; DSR drivers in CAPS)

  1. RON CAPPS (6)                   1,276    —–

  2. MATT HAGAN (3)                1,093    -183

  3. JACK BECKMAN (2)            1,049    -227

  4. Robert Hight (1)                    1,035    -241

  5. TOMMY JOHNSON JR. (1)     982    -294

  6. Courtney Force                        874    -402

  7. John Force (1)                         821    -455

  8. Tim Wilkerson                          727    -549

  9. J.R. Todd (1)                            724    -552