Brainerd, Minn. - Less than five months ago, Ron Capps couldn't have imagined the position he will be in on Sunday.
Back in April, the driver of the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car was 246 points behind points leader Robert Hight of John Force Racing.
Hight had won four of the first five NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series events while Capps didn't even qualify for the fifth one.
But on Sunday, Capps will have pulled to within 27 points of Hight before the first round of championship eliminations in the NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.
Solid qualifying efforts enabled to Capps to chop four points off Hight's lead by earning bonus points in qualifying where Capps will be seeded fifth and have his choice of lanes in the opening round when he meets rookie Courtney Force, who won her first NHRA pro title two weeks ago at Seattle. Hight qualified 10th and will not have lane choice in the first round when he faces teammate Mike Neff.
"We really want to get around Robert so we can have the points lead when we get to Indy," Capps said of the prestigious U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis that will be the final race of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series' regular season. After Indy, only the top-10 drivers in each pro category can contend for world championships.
"I'm real proud of (crew chief) Rahn Tobler and our NAPA team because they've been able to try things to get us ready for the Countdown during our qualifying and sometimes on race days without losing a beat. That's really impressed me.
"I feel we're in a good place with our NAPA team because we've been focused on getting ready for the Countdown."
Before the start of the six-race Countdown to the Championship, points will be reset in increments of 10 for those competing in the Countdown, and the driver leading each categories will earn a 20-point bonus that will put them 30 points ahead of the driver in second place.
Capps is racing for that bonus and the first NHRA world championship of his career.
The following are qualifying results for Capps and other notes:
No. 1 qualifier: Jack Beckman, DSR, 4.018 sec. (track record), 314.61 mph
Ron Capps, NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T
Qualified: No. 5
First-round opponent: Courtney Force
Session 1: 4.138 sec., 302.41 mph
Session 2: 4.779, 165.86
Session 3: 4.085, 306.53
Session 4: 4.062, 311.92
Full Throttle Nitro Schedule
Sunday: Eliminations, 11 a.m. (CT)
Source: Don Schumacher Racing