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Two-time Funny Car event winner Ron Capps feeds off excited fanbase at NHRA New England Nationals

by Mike Haag | Posted on Thursday, July 5th, 2018

Courtesy of the NHRA

EPPING, N.H. – The bigger and more excitable the fanbase, the better Ron Capps seems to perform. It’s one reason why the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car world champion enjoys heading to New England Dragway, the site of this weekend’s sixth annual NHRA New England Nationals, where Capps will again be greeted by the huge fanbase in the area.

Ron Capps. NHRA photo

It has already brought out the best in Capps on two occasions in the first five years of the race, as the veteran claimed Epping wins in 2014 and 2016 in his 10,000-horsepower NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T. A recent strong stretch has him confident he can pull off a third win at the facility, giving him the most for any NHRA driver at the fan-favorite event.

“You feed off of people in the area,” Capps said. “For some reason, I just feed off of that. The first year we went to Epping, we were bombarded with appearance requests. It was my first time being in the area, and being around the Boston fans and it was just crazy. Right away, I fed off that. We did well, we won and set the track record, and it was only natural it seemed like.”

Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live finals coverage starting at 1:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, July 8. It is the 13th of 24 events in 2018 and will take place for the first time in July, while Capps starts the second half of the season sixth in Funny Car points.

Ron Capps. NHRA photo

That’s a testament to the depth in Funny Car, as Capps has a victory and a final-round appearance in his last four races. It’s a nice turnaround after a slow start for the standout, but he’s still trying to track down points leader Courtney Force, who has four wins in 2018 and also won the inaugural race in Epping. But Capps is also just 33 points out of second, as five Funny Car stars are packed tightly. That’s not surprising to Capps, who is again impressed with the talent level in the class.

“Every year it seems like we say out loud that Funny Car has never been tougher than it is right now,” said Capps, who has 59 career wins. “Courtney (Force) had an unbelievable race car last year and they just didn’t have that success on Sunday. Now they’re having that success on Sunday, so every year you seem to add somebody into the mix of a good race car on raceday.”

Capps has that car thanks to a standout team led by veteran crew chief Rahn Tobler. The team has returned to its consistent ways in recent races, but will still have to overcome the likes of defending event winner and Don Schumacher Racing teammate Matt Hagan, two-time 2018 winner J.R. Todd, Jack Beckman, and defending world champ Robert Hight in Epping. That’s a challenge Capps enjoys, in part because of a team he can trust in pressure situations.

“Winning with (Tobler) is fun and even when we were struggling early in the year, I kept playing cheerleader and telling him everything was going to be fine,” said Capps, who won eight races in 2017. “I just love racing with him. I’ve had the same guys here since 2012, basically, and that doesn’t happen a lot. The whole point is there’s that confidence you have when you have a team and a crew chief that knows what you need to run.”

Defending Top Fuel world champ Brittany Force is after her second win in 2018, and will try to close in on Steve Torrence, who has the points lead and four wins this season. Others to watch include two-time Epping winner Tony Schumacher, Clay Millican, and Antron Brown.

Erica Enders is one of eight Pro Stock winners in 2018, but everyone is chasing points leader Tanner Gray, who has three wins this season. Other top standouts include Jeg Coughlin Jr., and Vincent Nobile, who each have two wins, Greg Anderson, and defending world champ Bo Butner.

The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, as well as the 2018 Mickey Thompson Tires Top Fuel Harley Drag Racing Series. Those in attendance will also have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with a few of the most renowned names in drag racing during the NHRA Legends Tour. This will feature meet-and-greets, autograph sessions, and a variety of other activities. Legends scheduled to attend the NHRA New England Nationals include Al Segrini, Tom Prock and Arnie Karp.

As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.

Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.

Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:30 and 7 p.m. on Friday, July 6 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 7, at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 8.

To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visitwww.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.

NHRA NEW ENGLAND NATIONALS

WHAT: Sixth annual NHRA New England Nationals, the 13th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in three categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock – earn points leading to 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. The race also will feature competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series.

WHERE: New England Dragway, Epping, N.H., the track is on Route 101 off Exit 8, an hour north of Boston and just 20 minutes from Manchester and the New Hampshire sea coast. From I-95, take Exit 2 in New Hampshire. Travel west on Route 101 to Exit 8, then turn right. From I-93, take Exit 7 in New Hampshire. Travel east on Route 101 to Exit 8, then turn left, and the track is straight ahead. From I-495, take Exit 51-B to Route 125 north. Travel east on Route 101 to Exit 8, then turn left, and the track is straight ahead.

COURSE:   Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 90 feet above sea level. Track direction is southwest to northeast

WHEN: Friday through Sunday, July 6-8

SCHEDULE: 
FRIDAY, July 6 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4:30 and 7 p.m.

SATURDAY, July 7- LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations 
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:30 and 4 p.m.

SUNDAY, July 8 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m. 
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.

TELEVISION: 
SATURDAY, July 6, FS1 will televise two hours of live qualifying at 1:30 p.m. (ET)
SUNDAY, July 8, FS1 will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 11:00 a.m.  (ET)
SUNDAY, July 8, FS1 will televise three hours of live finals coverage at 1:00 p.m. (ET) 

2017 EVENT WINNERS:
  Brittney Force, Top Fuel; Matt Hagan, Funny Car; Erica Enders, Pro Stock.

MOST VICTORIES:
Tony Schumacher, 2, TF; Ron Capps, 2, FC; Greg Anderson, 2, PS.

TRACK RECORDS: 
Top Fuel – 3.673 sec. by Leah Pritchett, June ’17; 331.69 mph by Doug Kalitta, June ’17.
Funny Car – 3.822 sec. by Robert Hight, June ’17; 336.74 mph Hight, June ’17.
Pro Stock – 6.485 sec. by Shane Gray, June ’14; 214.72 mph by Greg Anderson, June,  ’15.

NATIONAL RECORDS: 
Top Fuel – 3.628 sec. by Clay Millican, Feb. ’18, Pomona, Calif.; 336.57 mph by Tony Schumacher, Feb. ‘18, Phoenix
Funny Car – 3.793 sec. by Robert Hight, Aug. ’17, Brainerd; 339.87 mph by Robert Hight, July ’17, Sonoma, Calif.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ’14, Englishtown N.J.
 
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also available online at www.NHRA.com/tickets 

About the Author

Mike Haag has covered motorsports in San Antonio and South Texas for more than 30 years. In addition to working for the San Antonio Express-News for nearly 28 years, Mike also has co-hosted TrackSmack with Dawn Murphy for 15 race seasons. In addition to being a writer, Mike also teaches English at Floresville High School.