Veteran Funny Car racer Ron Capps looking for more Bristol success
NHRA Funny Car racer Ron Capps is coming to Bristol Dragway riding a hot streak, and for his rivals in the 11,000-horsepower nitro class that should be a scary thing.
Capps, the two-time defending winner of the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals with five victories total at the legendary dragstrip in northeast Tennessee, has found the right combination in his NAPA Funny Car after a slow start to the season. He's won two of the last three races, cruising to convincing victories at Atlanta and Richmond.
"It's been a crazy year," Capps said. "We didn't go to preseason testing and we had the new Dodge body, the Hellcat, and (crew chief Rahn) Tobler and the team has been working hard to figure it out. He's been trying different things and looking at different clutch discs and stuff like that; we are just now hitting our sweet spot. We qualified better at Atlanta and just found the magic from there."
The San Diego native will try to complete his march through the South when the circuit returns to Thunder Valley on Father's Day weekend, June 14-16 for the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.
Capps has had plenty of success over the years at Bristol. In addition to winning at Bristol the last two seasons, Capps also has scored wins here in 2012, 2006 and 2001. Needless to say, it's one of his favorite stops on the 24-race NHRA tour.
"I can't put my finger on it," Capps said. "I've won that race with different crew chiefs. You sort of feel the mojo. I went to the media tour for the first race there and ever since then everything has been awesome for me at that track. I got to know a bunch of fans in the area and every race you roll in there and you just feel like you have something special going on. It's one of a few tracks I'll mention to someone who has never been to a drag race. It's one of my top three that I tell people. I love the history and I guess with all that combined together, it likes me."
The third of four consecutive weekends of races in the middle of June means that teams are usually tired and the summer weather is ramping up and in this part of the country that means heat and humidity. Capps feels like his team is able to thrive in that environment.
"It's always hot there so I seem to do well in the demanding conditions," Capps said. "Last year it was so hot and the track was tricky and it was just a battle of attrition. It demands a lot out of the teams in those conditions and that's where I seem to thrive. When it's the end of the day, and everyone is worn out and you have to dig a little deeper to get the job done and rise to the occasion, I really love it when it's like that."
He also loves that the event is on Father's Day weekend. Being a dad himself, he says it's fun to bring a trophy home to his kids after a Bristol win. He also likes to share the victories with his dad, John, who he says is the man responsible for introducing him to racing when he was a kid.
"My dad has never come out for that race which is crazy," Capps said. "When we won two years ago I sent the trophy to my dad and he spent the next few weeks taking it around to people on the West Coast and showing it off to all of his racing friends. It was fun to watch it all on social media, sort of like a Stanley Cup tour. He took it around to lots of different places and people would hang out with it and he would have breakfast with it. It was really neat. I have a lot of Wally trophies and those kind of stick out as special to me, the one's I won at Bristol on Father's Day."
Another thing that is special to Capps about Bristol is the epic Friday night qualifying session. He says the setting at Thunder Valley under the lights on a crisp June evening doesn't get any better. He says his track record run of 3.884 seconds in 2016, which still stands today, took place in the night qualifying session.
"Friday night qualifying there has become its own legendary thing," Capps said. "It's something that has grown to be very cool. It's a throwback to what made drag racing cool in the first place. At this time of the year the track cools down and the temperatures cool off and people are able to get off work and come out for a fun night of racing. In 2016 I made one of my best runs ever there on a Friday night. I was screaming and yelling to my crew guys on radio asking if that was a track record run. You head down through there and you don't lift and you can tell it's hauling and on a good pass, and when you pull the parachutes and hear the echoes in the valley there after the run it's the best thing ever. It's part of what makes racing at Bristol so cool."
As always, fans will have the opportunity to 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 in motorsports 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.
In addition to Capps, fans will have the opportunity to meet all of the NHRA stars, including 16-time champ John Force, his daughter Brittany Force, three-time Top Fuel champ Antron Brown, Leah Pritchett, Virginia cattle rancher Matt Hagan and 2017 Bristol Top Fuel winner and native Tennessean Clay Millican. The race also will feature side-by-side racing in the fan-favorite Pro Mod and Top Fuel Harley classes. Bristol also will feature NHRA Mountain Motor Pro Stock exhibition racing for the first time.
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.
Fans also don't want to miss Thunder Valley's traditional Saturday evening FanFest, one of the biggest driver autograph sessions on the NHRA circuit that takes place in the pits 30 minutes after the final pro qualifying session. Bristol Dragway officials also will induct the latest honoree of the prestigious Thunder Valley Legends.
Mello Yello Series qualifying for the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals begins Friday, June 14 with Top Fuel and Funny Car sessions at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. The final two rounds of nitro qualifying are set for Saturday, June 15, at 1 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for noon on Sunday, June 16.
The race will be televised on FS1, with a one-hour live qualifying show on Friday at 7:30 p.m. (ET), a 90-minute Saturday show at 10:30 p.m. (ET) and a three-hour Sunday show that includes live semis and finals, starting at 2 p.m. (ET).
Enough with the multi-colored neck ties and fancy pocket protectors, there's still time to purchase tickets and give your Dad an unforgettable Father's Day weekend experience. Weekend packages begin at just $84 while single-day Friday and Sunday tickets start as low as $35 for adults. Saturday adult tickets start at $50. Tickets for kids (12 and under) are free with a paid adult.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call Bristol Dragway at (423) 989-6900. Tickets also are available online at www.bristoldragway.com and can be purchased in the Tri-Cities region at any Food City grocery store