Ron Capps has learned a lot about racing since he won his first professional NHRA title in 1995 driving a Top Fuel Dragster for Roger Primm.
It's fitting that it happened at the same racetrack in which Capps will compete on Sunday in the NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways near Seattle.
When Capps won there 17 years ago, the track was called Seattle International Raceway. What hasn't changed is that a veteran racer knows you never look beyond the next step.
For Capps, that means he only is focusing on Sunday's first round against Jeff Diehl to open championship eliminations that begin at 11 a.m. He could be tempting to envision a scenario where a loss by points leader Robert Hight in the first round and four round wins at 20 points each by Capps to earn his third event title of the year would give the driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T the points lead.
Capps will start Sunday trailing Hight by 74 points which in itself is astounding considering Capps was eighth in points and 246 behind Hight after five events and one race after team owner Don Schumacher shifted crew chief Rahn Tobler and his crew to Capps.
Since then, Capps and Tobler have combined to win two titles and Saturday marked the duo's second pole together.
"I've learned as a veteran you never look past your next opponent," Capps said. "That can be tempting but when you do you are likely to stub your toe."
Capps wasn't looking ahead last week at Sonoma, Calif., but he was upset in the first round when his NAPA AUTO PARTS lost traction and smoked the tires.
It is unlikely that will happen again Sunday.
"We went out in the last session in the heat of the day and ran a 4.22 so that should make it easier for Rahn to sleep tonight, if crew chiefs ever sleep the night before a race," Capps said.
"We'd like to get the points lead, but we just want to rounds on Sunday, one at a time. I know that is a cliche but it is how you have to approach Sundays. You can't look beyond your next opponent. You really can't."
The following are Capps qualifying results, first-round opponent and other notes:
No. 1 qualifier: Ron Capps, DSR, 4.119, 298.47
Ron Capps, NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
Qualified: No. 1 First round opponent: Jeff Diehl
Session 1: 4.451 sec., 208.30 mph
Session 2: 4.119, 298.47
Session 3: 4.304, 276.58\
Session 4: 4.222, 291.89
Sunday: High of 89; 0 percent chance of rain
Northwest National Nitro Schedule
Sunday: championship eliminations, 11 a.m. (PT)
Saturday: 10:30 p.m.-midnight, delay (ET) Sunday: 6-9 p.m., delay (ET)
Source: Don Schumacher Racing