Fourth Consecutive Final Elimination Appearance for Mopar with Capps’ Runner-Up Performance at Norwalk NHRA Nationals
· Don Schumacher Racing driver Ron Capps takes Mopar to runner-up finish at Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals
· Capps moves into third in the Funny Car points standings to lead his DSR teammates
· DSR drivers combine to make appearances in all four final eliminations rounds in the last four week stretch of Funny Car competition
· Allen Johnson moves into second place in Pro Stock standing with semifinal appearance at Norwalk’s Motorsports Park
Norwalk, Ohio (Sunday, July 6) – After earning a Wally trophy two weeks ago, Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) driver Ron Capps found himself back in a final elimination showdown with his Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car and this time came away with a runner-up finish at the eighth annual Summit Racing Equipment National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Nationals. This is third occasion that Capps has finished runner-up at Norwalk’s Summit Racing Motorsports Park and the 41st time in his career.
Seeded fifth, Capps’ second final round appearance of the season pitted him against 16-time NHRA champion, John Force, against whom he made a strong pass with a 4.135 second (305.56 mile per hour) elapsed time run but was beaten by his opponent’s time of 4.113 seconds (317.27 mph).
“It was another close race but we raced well today,” Capps said. “We didn’t expect it to slow down against Force so (crew chief, Rahn) Tobler started looking at the computer right away to see what happened. The car just moved to the left down there.
“We just want to keep gaining points but we hate to have to race our teammates like that,” said Capps who moves into third place in the standing after beating two of his three teammates. We always say our teammates are tougher to race than Force and other opponents. Everybody is so good right now. It’s so tight.”
With Capps’ runner-up finish, Don Schumacher Racing has wrapped up the four week stretch with a Mopar in each final round of eliminations of the last four national events including wins by Tommy Johnson Jr. at Bristol, Tenn., Capps at Epping, N.H. and Matt Hagan at Joliet, Ill.
DSR qualified three of their Dodge Charger R/T machines in the top-five positions on the Funny Car eliminations ladder with Johnson Jr., Hagan and Capps in the 3-4-5 positions respectively, with Jack Beckman also in the top half of the ladder with an eighth place seeding. All four drivers won their first round match-ups.
For the second round, the sun came out to heat up the track making navigation and set-up a bit trickier after having had four evening qualifying sessions in cooler temperatures. The first to bow out was Johnson when he lost his second round paring against Cruz Pedregon.
The winner of last week’s Route 66 Nationals near Chicago and fourth place qualifier, Hagan, was a bit too anxious to get his Mopar Express Lane Dodge through his second round match-up with his DSR teammate Capps. He turned on the red light, fouling out by -.176 seconds, to have his 4.112-second pass at 310.84 mph pass disqualified helping Capps advance with a 4.130-second (309 mph) pass to the semifinals against his another teammate, Beckman.
Capps edged Beckman in their match-up but the semifinal appearance helped boost Beckman back into the top-ten in the points standings which helps determine the field for six-race Countdown to the Championship that begins after the Labor Day weekend U.S. Nationals event.
In Pro Stock action, both Mopars won their respective opening round match-ups to advance and face one another in the second round, with Jeg Coughlin Jr.’s JEGS.com Dodge Dart earning lane choice over Allen Johnson’s “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” Dodge Dart.
Johnson won the HEMI showdown with a 6.609-second (209.92 mph) run to Coughlin’s e.t. of 6.658 seconds (209.17 mph) after he had some traction issues on the difficult track.
“The lane got Jeg (Coughlin Jr.) earlier and then bit me in the next round,” said Johnson after his loss in the semifinals to Dave Connolly when both cars battled track condition but his opponent recovered to cross the line first. “He (Connolly) just did a better job getting it into second gear than I did. If I had dropped the clutch and shifted into second we’d have went straight down and won, but the car moved to the right and I couldn’t get back on the throttle as quick as he did and that was the end of it. When you run first out like that it’s tough to get down the race track and they did a better job than we did.
The Pro Stock title at Norwalk was won by points leader Erica Enders-Stevens who drove to her fourth winner’s circle appearance this season. Johnson took over second place from Coughlin who is just 25 point behind in third.
“The good news is that Jeggy and I are right there,” Johnson said. “The bad news is that Erica (Enders-Stevens) gained more points on us. I guess Jeg and I will battle for second going into the Countdown (to the Championship) but the good news is the points will reset for the playoffs.”
Johnson and his Mopar team now prepare to head to Denver, Colo., for Mopar’s signature event at the Mile High Nationals where they have five wins (2013, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2007) and have earned the No. 1 qualifier award four consecutive times.
“I’d like to go into the Mopar Mile High Nationals feeling a little better that I am in this moment but that event is just so fantastic that it’s easy to get back up for it,” Johnson said. “You feel a certain amount of pressure to continue the success we’ve had at Bandimere Speedway but at the same time you know you can do it and we really just want to do it again.”
The NHRA Mello Yello Series will have a one week break in action as teams prepare for the three week western swing that begins at the Mopar Mile High Nationals in Golden, Colo. on July 18-20 at Bandimere Speedway.