Driver made the quickest run in Funny Car history there in 2012
Ron Capps knows how to win at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, having done so in 2006. Capps also knows how to go fast there, as his incredible 3.964 second elapsed time from 2012 still stands as the quickest run in Funny Car history.
Next on Capps’ to-do list is repeating at least one of those accomplishments at Englishtown in his 10,000-horsepower NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger and he will get that chance at this weekend’s 45th annual Toyota NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.
Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Michael Ray (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised nationally on ESPN2. It also marks the ninth of 24 events on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series circuit.
With that three-second run still fresh in his mind two years later, Capps is thrilled to return to Englishtown.
“It was fitting that it happened at such an historic racetrack and I've got a lot of other great memories there,” Capps said. “To win there you have to have a great crew chief and a great team. Obviously the driver has to be on his game to leave on time and keep the car in the middle of the track. That place can go from the most extreme record-setting conditions like we saw on that 3.96 to hot and humid and tricky.”
As magical as Capps’ run, which didn’t become the E.T. national record because it wasn’t backed up that weekend, was in 2012, the longtime standout is also confident something even more impressive will take place this weekend.
“That 3.96 is going to get broken this year and it could be us on Friday night if the conditions are right and we're at the back of the pack on the second qualifying session,” Capps said. “(But) it's a track that's very, very unforgiving for a crew chief that doesn't have his act together.”
Capps is fine in that department, winning with Ed McCulloch in 2006 and posting the 3.964 run with current crew chief Rahn Tobler. After a slow start to the season, Tobler and Capps have steadily climbed the points standings with one consistent performance after another.
Since losing in the first round in Phoenix, Capps has posted semifinal appearances in five of the past six races, including last weekend at Topeka. The next step is completing a weekend with Capps’ first victory of the season, but he remains confident in the process.
“It’s funny because even before our string of semifinal finishes Rahn Tobler had been playing around a little with the tune-up,” Capps said. “A great part of having him as our crew chief and our crew being together for several years is that we don't veer too far away from having a really good car. We can try to be the best in qualifying but we usually have a good car for Sunday when he can make great decisions.”
The demanding stretch of three consecutive race weekends ends in Englishtown, but after a week off four straight race weekends are up next. As rigorous as that can be on a driver and team, Capps has the luxury of an experienced team and strong backing from NAPA and Don Schumacher Racing.
Of course, he also has to deal with a loaded Funny Car field that includes points leader Robert Hight and reigning world champion John Force. Other top standouts include Topeka winner Courtney Force, DSR teammates Jack Beckman and Hagan, and past Englishtown winners Cruz Pedregon, Tony Pedregon, Del Worsham, Ron Capps, Tommy Johnson Jr., Bob Tasca III and Tim Wilkerson. Still, Capps eyes the road ahead as a great chance to make a major move.
“I love it because it's a chance for a team like mine to make a run in the points,” Capps said. “I don't think many teams can keep their heads above water like ours can. It's our time to keep our noses down and make a move in the standings. We have a week off after Englishtown and then it’s four in a row and we can move up to second or third. It can be a great time for our team. The car isn't going to go out there and blow up or catch fire very often, and it's not going to have major issues. For the most part, Tobler gives you a consistent car that isn't going to get itself in trouble.”
In Top Fuel, two-time Etown winner Doug Kalitta is the current points leader, while New Jersey native Antron Brown, who has three victories this year, is chasing his first Englishtown victory. Spencer Massey, who has two straight victories, is another championship contender, as is reigning world champ Langdon, 2008 Englishtown winner Tony Schumacher, 2012 winner Steve Torrence, defending Auto Club of Southern California Road the Future Award winner Brittany Force and new Kalitta Motorsports driver J.R. Todd.
Greg Anderson leads the Pro Stock category with five career wins at Raceway Park in the factory hot rod class and is looking to make an impact after returning to competition in Houston following heart surgery. Anderson’s teammate Jason Line has three wins in New Jersey, as does five-time Pro Stock world champion Jeg Coughlin. Allen Johnson has three wins this season but nobody has been better than points leader Erica Enders-Stevens, who has two victories in 2014 and is looking for her first Toyota NHRA Summernationals win. New York native Vincent Nobile, veteran V Gaines and category newcomer Chris McGaha are other top contenders in the 200 mph class.
Michael Ray won this event in Pro Stock Motorcycle last season and so far the Star Racing driver has been the No. 1 qualifier at two events in 2014. Points leader and Charlotte winner Andrew Hines has tasted success at Englishtown before, winning in 2004. Last year’s Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Matt Smith and local favorite Eddie Krawiec, a past track manager at Etown, will both be looking for a second Englishtown victory.
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 enjoy some cherished face time and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, May 30, with sessions at 4 and 6:15 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, May 31, at 12:45 and 3:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 1.