Ron Capps' hope of catching the NHRA Funny Car points leader Robert Hight near Seattle went up in smoke Sunday, but two events remain when the NAPA AUTO PARTS driver can overtake the former world champ.
Capps moved to within 31 points of leader Robert Hight of John Force Racing when Hight lost in the opening round and Capps advanced to the semifinals. Capps was 246 points behind Hight after five of the 23 events on the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series tour before making an astounding comeback over the last 10 races.
"After Robert lost I really was hoping we could get around him in the standings," Capps said.
Two NHRA Full Throttle events remain before the top-10 in points are determined for the field in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship, which is contested over the last six races of the season.
Beyond bragging rights for being the "regular" season champ, points are reset for the Countdown and the points leader receives a 30-point cushion.
"Those points would be huge and no better way to start the Countdown," Capps said.
Had Capps won the title Sunday in the NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways near Seattle, he would have moved to the top and led Hight by nine points.
But Capps lost in the semifinals to the Dodge Charger R/T driven by Don Schumacher Racing teammate Matt Hagan. It was a critical win for Hagan as the reigning Funny Car world champion is fighting to make the top 10.
"We were really hoping to move past Robert today. The only consolation is that Matt gained a couple rounds and that will help him," Capps said of Hagan advancing to the championship round where he lost to rookie Courtney Force.
"Guys were smoking the tires in the right lane before we ran and we had lane choice so we took the left lane," Capps said. "But (Hagan crew chief) Tommy DeLago did a good job of getting Matt's car past that point of the track. They had the only car that went down the right lane."
Hagan also smoked the tires but was able to win with a time of 4.410 seconds at 231.28 mph to Capps' 5.328 (159.61).
Capps, who was the No. 1 qualifier with a time of 4.119 seconds, was even quicker in the first round with a run of 4.118 that was the quickest run on Sunday.
"We ran that 4.11 in qualifying and then we came back with another 4.11 in the first round that was even quicker," Capps said. "That was a phenomenal run."
But as the tricky track continued to heat up under clear skies and ambient temperatures in the low 90s, crew chief Rahn Tobler battled to rein in the power of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car.
"He kept trying to back it down and calm it down because the track got hotter in the second round and even hotter in the semis," Capps said.
"I'm proud of Rahn because in the middle of qualifying he worked hard to get the car quicker early in the runs so we could get the momentum going earlier. He accomplished that even on a track that was as hot as it was this weekend.
"It went down the track in the second round but spun the tires on that last run. Rahn backed it down even more but it wasn't enough. It went out and rattled the tires loose before Matt's started to spin so he had more momentum and was out in front.
The next Full Throttle event is Aug. 17-19 at Brainerd, Minn., where Capps was runner-up last year.
Event winner: Courtney Force, John Force Racing
No. 1 qualifier: Ron Capps, DSR, 4.119, 298.47
Ron Capps, NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
Qualified: No. 1
First Round: CAPPS (4.118 sec., 296.89 mph) def. Jeff Diehl (broke)
Second Round: CAPPS (4.169, 288.46) def. Tim Wilkerson (4.214, 292.90)
Semifinals: Matt Hagan (4.410, 231.28) def. CAPPS (5.328, 159.61)
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
NHRA FULL THROTTLE STANDINGS
(Through Kent, Wash., 15 0f 23 events; DSR drivers in CAPS; * clinched spots in Countdown)
1. *Robert Hight, 1143
2. *RON CAPPS, 1112
3. *JACK BECKMAN, 1003
4. JOHNNY GRAY, 942
5. Mike Neff, 933
6. Courtney Force, 851
7. Cruz Pedregon, 803
8. Jeff Arend, 749
9. John Force, 746
10. Bob Tasca, 739
11. Matt Hagan, 697
Source: Don Schumacher Racing