Sonoma: Round 15 preview

SONOMA, Calif. -- Ron Capps does not want to repeat his performance from last year at Infineon Raceway. Although, he did consider his runner up position to teammate Gary Scelzi pretty exciting. "You know, last year was the first time I got a ...

SONOMA, Calif. -- Ron Capps does not want to repeat his performance from last year at Infineon Raceway. Although, he did consider his runner up position to teammate Gary Scelzi pretty exciting.

"You know, last year was the first time I got a taste of teammates going against each other in the final," said Capps. "I lost, but that was huge."

This showdown of teammates prepped Capps for the eventual showdown he had with Scelzi for the most captivating points race in recent memory at the NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif. at season's end.

Capps lived in the Bay area while attending Santa Clara University, so he considers Infineon Raceway his home track. He also met his wife Shelley in the Bay area, and spent some time up there at Lake San Antonio before he joined the Western Swing in Denver.

"Besides the fact that when I was growing up, when my dad raced we went to Fresno and Sonoma all the time, Sacramento for that matter," Capps said. "The Bay area has always been a home track for me."

The Carlsbad, Calif. driver hopes to earn his 18th career win and stay ahead of the point lead at the FRAM-Autolite NHRA Nationals, July 28-30 at Infineon Raceway in beautiful Sonoma, Calif. The $1.3 million race, which will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD, is the 15th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Defending race winners include Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel); Gary Scelzi (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock), and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Capps looks to capitalize on his five wins in 2006 (Gainesville, Houston, Bristol, Topeka, and Englishtown) to earn his first world championship. Even with these five wins he is holding on to a slim points lead over 13-time world champion John Force. Yet, in head-to head competition Capps has the edge with a 4-1 record over Force this year.

"I just get up for the guy," Capps said. "I try to get up for anybody. That just tells you how big a deal he still is in the sport. I've said it before. If you can beat him to the hotel in a rental car, qualifying, final round, whatever it is, it's going to be a big deal."

Capps finished second in the 2005 title chase by only 8 points - but there is one person more than any other than himself that Capps would want to win a championship for, and that would be crew chief Ed "Ace" McCullough. He has been with Capps on two teams, first with Don "The Snake" Prudhomme, and now with Don Schumacher Racing. Recently, "Ace" underwent surgery to remove some polyps in his colon.

"I even said last year, all my guys on the crew, we all wanted to win it for Ace," said Capps. To be honest I thought he had won a championship, at least one or two. I was kind of dumbfounded when they told me he never won one. I hope I have lots of years left in me, but right now we are concentrating on this is our best chance to get him a championship ring."

In Top Fuel, Melanie Troxel has raced to two victories in seven final rounds and led the standings for most of the season in her Skull Shine/Torco Race Fuels dragster. However, at Denver, Doug Kalitta moved into the points lead. Kalitta, who is second only to Force with five career victories at Infineon (2005, 2004, 2000, 1999, and 1998), has posted four victories in his Mac Tools dragster this season. Brandon Bernstein and Rod Fuller have claimed two wins each and are certainly threats to win. Three-time and defending world champ Tony Schumacher earned his first victory of the season last month in St. Louis and posted a runner-up finish to rookie first time winner J.R. Todd at Denver and could be primed for a late season championship run in his U.S. Army dragster.

Funny Car has been dominated by Capps' five wins, but other winners include three-time winner Tony Pedregon, and a multitude of single event winners, such as defending world champion and Infineon event winner Scelzi, Force, and Cruz Pedregon.

Three-time world champ Greg Anderson has led the way all year in Pro Stock in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO but gave up the lead at Denver to his teammate and two-time winner Jason Line. Three-time 2006 winner Dave Connolly is making a strong move late in the season with a win at Denver over the weekend. Kurt Johnson, Mike Edwards, and former two-time series champ Jim Yates are all ones to watch, and young phenom Erica Enders continues to have the best Pro Stock season ever for a female driver.

Last year's Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion, Andrew Hines, is sitting atop familiar territory after winning at Denver. Other winners this year have included, Angelle Sampey, Antron Brown, Chip Ellis, Ryan Schnitz, and Matt Smith.

SCHEDULE: Professional qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3:15 and 6:45 p.m. on July 28, and 10 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. on July 29. Eliminations start at noon on July 30.

TICKETS: For tickets, call (800) 870-7223. Tickets also are available at Ticketmaster.com.

ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of qualifying at 8 p.m. (ET) on July 29. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will air NHRA 2Day, a 30-minute weekly news magazine show, at 11:30 a.m. (ET), followed by three hours of eliminations coverage at 8 p.m. (ET) on July 30.

-nhra

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Kurt Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Cruz Pedregon , Melanie Troxel , Jason Line , Andrew Hines , Matthew Smith , Don Schumacher , Chip Ellis , Rod Fuller , J.R. Todd , Angelle Sampey , Mike Edwards