Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – COMMERCE, GA – After qualifying second and advancing to his first semifinal of the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season in Houston, Ron Capps felt a hot streak might be coming.
Barely squeezing into the qualifying field in Charlotte changed those plans for the Funny Car standout, but Capps remains confident something big is going to happen soon for his team, and possibly at this weekend’s 39th annual Arby’s NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.
The veteran fan-favorite and his team suffered through a variety of unexpected problems last weekend in his 10,000-horsepower NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, but the good news is Capps doesn’t have to wait long to redeem himself. He’s a two-time Funny Car winner at Georgia’s House of Speed and Capps, the 2016 world champion, believes his team is ready to pounce after overcoming some early adversity during the 2019 season.
“We had a great car in Houston and it felt like we were hitting our stride, but I got in the car on Friday in Charlotte and all of a sudden it was wanting to go right really hard,” Capps said. “We went through everything, but sure enough, we still had the issue the next day. So in between rounds we had to pull out other car we had and we got in the show. It’s such a difficult sport and these Funny Cars are such a difficult thing to run, but that taught me a lot about my team. Things like that can really prepare you. It reminds you that you’re a world championship team for a reason.”
Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of a race that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including finals coverage starting at 6:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday. It is the seventh of 24 races in a 2019 season where Capps is still looking to hit his stride. But when the opportunity comes, Capps will be ready to strike.
The team tested on Monday and put together a number of solid runs, giving Capps plenty of confidence heading into Atlanta. Coming off a first-round loss in Charlotte and sitting ninth in Funny Car points, Capps knows the time is now to start making his move. The good news is his team, led by standout Rahn Tobler, has always responded well in these situations, which has Capps anxious to race for his 62nd career victory against the elite talent in Funny Car.
“Back-to-back weekends are great when you don’t have a great Sunday because a few days later you can redeem yourself and get right back at it,” Capps said. “For us, I want to see these back-to-back races and three races in a row because I want to make a move in the points. It’s been a slow start by our standards and I don’t like being in the bottom half of the top 10. It’s weird for us, but if we get our car back, we can make a big move. I’m glad to see these weekends coming up.”
To move up in the standings, Capps will have to move past the likes of defending world champion J.R. Todd, Charlotte winner Shawn Langdon, John Force, Don Schumacher Racing teammate Matt Hagan and contend with points leader Robert Hight, who has three wins in 2019. But Capps has a feeling his car is about to go on a consistent stretch as his team looks to bounce back from the frustrating weekend in Charlotte in resounding fashion at Atlanta Dragway.
“Sometimes you can learn more from those low points and how they really help you,” Capps said. “You learn about the car and the situation puts you in such an emotional check. The cool thing is my guys don’t even look like they’re worried. We just keep each other up. I feel like they have a lot of confidence in myself and Tobler, and that’s how you come together as a team.”
Defending Top Fuel world champ and points leader Steve Torrence will aim for his third career Atlanta victory against the likes of Clay Millican, Brittany Force and Doug Kalitta.
The Pro Stock Motorcycle class makes its fourth of 16 appearances in 2019 at the event, with everyone chasing Andrew Hines, who has two victories this season.
The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service has its fourth of 12 races in the 2019 season. Todd Tutterow, defending world champ Mike Janis and Stevie “Fast” Jackson both have wins this year, while the class also includes popular drivers Erica Enders, Alex Laughlin and three-time champ Rickie Smith. The event also features exciting competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport.
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.
NHRA fans can take part in the Mello Yello Walking Tour to see the cars and teams hard at work in the pits. Fans can also attend Nitro School to learn more about how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds. Atlanta Dragway will host a Mello Yello autograph session and allow fans to meet their favorite drivers as well as the Cruising with Castello Sealmaster Track Walk hosted by NHRA announcer Joe Castello. A can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes. NHRA fans are invited to congratulate the winners of the event as they celebrate their Arby’s NHRA Southern Nationals victories.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:00 and 7:00 p.m. on Friday, May 3 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, May 4, at 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 5.