Fall Back: Capps Gets Runner-Up at FallNationals
Still Holds Slim Lead in Championship Battle
October 15, 2017, Ennis, Texas – It’s getting near that time of year to reset the clocks for Daylight Savings Time. Dodge driver Ron Capps put a hold on time (for now) with a runner-up finish at the NHRA FallNationals in Ennis, Texas, to keep his lead in the Funny Car Championship.
For the second year in a row, Capps went to the final round of the NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex near Dallas, but again came up just short of winning at the all-concrete drag strip. Still, Capps’ final-round appearance was the 12th of the year for his HEMI®-powered Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car from Don Schumacher Racing (DSR), and the 19th time this season that at least one Mopar® Dodge from DSR has gone to the final round in the category through 22 events.
“We didn’t want to give it away,” said Capps after the run. “We went up there to run a high .80 and we just lost a little bit in the middle of the track and that’s where they got us on speed. So it was another close race. It’s going to come down to the wire.”
Capps qualified No. 2 and matched up against stout No. 1 qualifier Robert Hight in the final round. Capps moved first with a .038-second reaction time and turned in a solid 3.927-second lap at 329.18 mph. It was not enough to overtake Hight though, who made a pass of 3.877 at 332.34 after a reaction time of .054.
Capps, the 2016 Funny Car champion, maintained his points lead, but the eight-time winner this season is now just 24 markers ahead of Hight with only two races remaining in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
Capps opened his day by besting Del Worsham as both cars got in trouble, with Capps’ car striking the tires down track and Worsham smoking his near the starting line. However, Capps was able hold on to take the win light. He then matched up against John Force, who turned on the red light as Capps made a clean pass down track. In the semifinal round, Capps bested his DSR Mopar teammate Jack Beckman on another textbook run as Beckman hazed the tires.
Despite his final-round defeat, Capps’ won-loss record this year is now a remarkable 52-14. In addition to last season, he also appeared in the final round at the Texas Motorplex in 2011 and won at the Dallas-area track in 1998.
Beckman and the Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T team from DSR took an unusual path to the semis. He first took down J.R. Todd in round one as both cars lost traction, forcing the drivers to pedal, but Beckman reached the finish line first. He next was scheduled to face Daniel Wilkerson in round two, but Wilkerson had a mechanical issue at the starting line, necessitating that his team shut the car off. Beckman won the race on a solo even as his car went up in smoke near half-track. His valiant march then came to an end at the hands of Capps, but not before he moved to fourth in the standings.
Matt Hagan and Tommy Johnson Jr. went out in the first round in their Dodge Charger R/T Funny Cars from DSR. Hagan hazed the tires just off the starting line in the Mopar Pennzoil car and could never catch opponent Jonnie Lindberg, despite the Swedish driver having to pedal the car near half-track. Tommy Johnson Jr. also bowed out in round one after his Make-A-Wish machine was defeated by John Force. Both cars struck the tires, and Force’s car later backfired, but he was still able to turn on the win light.
In the Top Fuel category, Leah Pritchett drove her Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Pennzoil dragster from DSR past Scott Palmer on a clean pass in round one, then took on Antron Brown, where her day came to an end after a close race. Even with her early exit, Pritchett still jumped from seventh to fifth in the point standings thanks to collecting a handful of qualifying bonus points and her closest competitors going out in the first round.
Also in Top Fuel, No. 2 qualifier Tony Schumacher was defeated in his Mopar-powered U.S. Army dragster from DSR in round one after smoking the tires, giving the win to Terry Haddock.
The 32nd annual NHRA FallNationals featured extreme swings in weather from the qualifying sessions to elimination rounds. Qualifying on Friday and Saturday was contested primarily under extremely hot and humid conditions, but overnight rains early Sunday morning led to a twenty-degree temperature drop, creating an extremely fast track. The day saw a number of early-round upsets, as well as a massive crash by Top Fuel points leader Steve Torrence in round two. He walked away unhurt.