JOLIET, Ill. — Funny Car veteran Ron Capps is having the kind of season a person usually only dreams about. The NHRA star heads to the 15th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Route 66 Raceway riding the high of six straight final-round appearances and earning his second victory of the season, which tied him on the all-time wins list with NHRA legend “Big Daddy” Don Garlits.
“Tying with Don Garlits for the amount of wins was a shocker,” Capps said. “You never even imagine as a kid growing up to be mentioned in the same sentence or the same breath as Don Garlits and the word wins. That was the biggest compliment.”
As the NHRA heads to the Windy City for the 11th stop of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season, Capps will try to continue his final-round streak as well as start a winning streak, but defending Funny Car winner Mike Neff will be doing his best to stop his streak and take back the No. 2 spot in the point standings from Capps. Del Worsham (Top Fuel), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also 2011 winners of the event that will be telecast on ESPN2HD.
After a tough start to the season, championship tuner Rahn Tobler was added to the NAPA Auto Parts team and it has brought nothing but positive changes. Capps has moved up to second in the points standings, earned the title of quickest Funny Car driver in NHRA history thanks to his 3.964-second pass in Englishtown, N.J., and the team has one of the most consistent cars in the ultracompetitive Funny Car class.
“With the competition we have now and as good as you have to be in Funny Car, I feel like for sure I have one of the most consistent cars out there,” Capps said. “Really, right now, you could put that up as one of the most consistent cars in Funny Car history. I think there have only been two or three runs since Charlotte four-wide that the car hasn’t made it down the track under full power. That stat is even more impressive to me than even the six final rounds.”
Capps has a strong team at Don Schumacher Racing and knows that his Funny Car teammates are not only his biggest cheerleaders, but also his biggest competitors. In his six straight final rounds, he has lost two to his teammates; he knows that’s good for the sport and even better for his morale.
“For me, when I have to race one of my teammates, I have to elevate myself,” Capps said. “Even more than I do if I have to race John Force’s team or anyone else out there, I really feel like it just heightens everything for me as a driver.”
Capps has accomplished a lot in his career, but the one thing he thinks is missing is that elusive NHRA Funny Car world championship. He has finished in the No. 2 position in the championship points standings three times and knows that even though he has had a great career, the one thing he wants more than anything is the championship.
“I look at the trophies on my mantel and every one of them has a great memory of the guys that put the car together that made it happen,” Capps said. “All of that stuff is great. The accolades that come later on, that stuff is cool, but it’s still that championship ring that we are striving to get.”
Not only will fans be privy to incredible competition in Funny Car and the other three NHRA Full Throttle categories, but they will also have the pleasure of two nitro qualifying sessions under the lights, with both Friday and Saturday night action, a rare treat on the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Jet cars will close the show on Friday, and the iconic nostalgia Funny Cars the Chi-Town Hustler and Stardust will end Saturday night’s program.
The JEGS Allstars competition, celebrating its 28th year, will also be featured as part of the weekend’s on-track action. Pro Stock driver Jeg Coughlin has been an Allstars representative six times, winning the Super Gas title twice. Several of today’s NHRA Full Throttle Series stars are past Allstars participants, including Top Fuel drivers Morgan Lucas (Top Alcohol Dragster, 2003-04; won in ’03), Shawn Langdon (Super Comp, 2005-07; won in ’05 and ’06) and Spencer Massey (Top Alcohol Dragster, 2007-08; won in ’07) as well as Funny Car drivers Tim Wilkerson (Top Alcohol Funny Car, 1995) and Jack Beckman (Super Comp, 2004-05; runner-up in ’04).
Sunday morning, before prerace ceremonies, there will be a special Nitro Generation track walk and all fans are invited to join Tony, Don and Megan Schumacher as well as TJ Zizzo at 10 a.m. as they walk the actual track surface before championship Sunday’s eliminations begin. After the track walk, fans are welcome to head to the starting line to be a part of prerace ceremonies as the top 16 drivers in each of the four NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series classes are introduced.
As always, every ticket holder is granted exclusive pit access each day, so fans can get up close and personal with their favorite teams and drivers for pictures and autographs.