Author: Capps, Ron
Date published: April 15, 2011
Inever quite realized just how appropriate the name of this column, On the Run, is in describing the types of lives us drivers live, especially as the drag racing season unfolds. We are always running hard, and not just down the concrete and asphalt dragstrips the NHRA Full Throttle tour visits around the country.
It really hit me right before the first qualifying round Saturday morning in Las Vegas. Here we were, trying to get the NAPA Auto Parts Funny Car into the field for the race, battling really hot conditions that were making [crew chief] John Medlen's life and that of every crew chief's miserable, and I had to make sure the tickets I secured for some friends and family members who were coming to watch me were all set.
I had already done a half-hour autograph session, along with the other Don Schumacher Racing Funny Car drivers for Mopar (we drive Dodge Charger Funny Cars); was bugged by my PR guy for some information and appointments for future events; spent time with NAPA folks; did the pre-session warm-up; and had to get ready to drive. Again, my primary job was to get into the field for the race.
We made it down the track during the round, and I made the field, but once out of the car, I again began to do the other things that really fill the daily lives of a Professional drag racer. I'm not complaining; I enjoy most of the activities I do. Obviously, I love to race - on a dragstrip, oval or road course, kart track, or dirt track - and do as much as I can.
I also really like the chance to meet and interact with fans, either signing autographs in the pits during race weekends or at appearances, like we did at the World of Coca-Cola on Thursday in Las Vegas or during the NHRA Fanfest in front of the New York- New York Hotel & Casino. I was once one of those fans who longed for the chance to talk to a racer, so I understand how important it is for drivers to spend time with them. I'm proud of the men and women who drive dragsters because virtually all of them take the time to sign autographs and have their pictures taken with fans. We don't run away and hide when we cross the finish line. We walk through the pits in our NAPA Auto Parts team shirts and hats.
Between races, the running continues, either by making appearances sponsors might arrange, like the Coke one, which was for Full Throttle; visiting a NAPA Auto Parts event; or driving in other racing competitions. I do that for fun while, of course, spreading the names of NAPA and NHRA Drag Racing to a wider audience. I just did two of my favorite driving events, piloting Del Worsham's replica Blue Max nostalgia Funny Car at the legendary March Meet event at Auto Club Famoso Raceway and navigating the twisting course at Infineon Raceway in Northern California for the Tour de Charity kart race, which we do every year for the Speedway Children's Charities.
So those "off " weekends, the ones NHRA does not have on the Full Throttle schedule, are not all leisure time. One great thing about having a sponsor like NAPA and our other sponsors is that every year they get more and more requests from their store owners, employees, and NAPA Auto Care Centers to use our drag racing program to their benefit. I can tell you that most of my off weekends and non-racing weekends are already booked up through September with sponsor appearances, which is a very good problem to have.
The March Meet event was a great time, and we qualified No. 2 and even got to have Brad Shaffer hang out and enjoy the race as part of our crew. We are looking forward to doing it again at the California Hot Rod Reunion in October.
We went to Infineon the following weekend, along with DSR teammate Jack Beckman, and had another great time. Fans get to buy their way into the race and hang out with us, as a means to raise money for the Speedway Children's Charities, and everyone has a terrific time. But this is racing, even if it is in a different category than what I do for a living, and I race to win, which is especially important with Jack in the field. I won for the sixth time. More importantly, the event raised $12,600, which brings the nine-year total to $100,000.
Speaking of racing for charity, I will also be racing a dirt Late Model in Hanford, Calif., in April and again in Santa Maria, Calif., in May, all in hopes of getting some seat time in a dirt car for Tony Stewart's Prelude to the Dream race Wednesday, June 8. Tony's race will again be aired on pay-per-view television and benefit several children's hospitals. I would expect that because we raised more than a million dollars each of the last few years, we will do at least that again - pretty good for just one night, eh?
This is one of the great bonuses for me, getting to indulge in my passion for racing, and at the same time, doing something to help others. My contribution might not be as large as some, or as significant as the researchers and doctors involved in these children's charities, but I understand every little bit helps.
Oh yeah, in between the March Meet and the Infineon race, we slipped off to Indianapolis to get fitted for the new NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car. We'll test this hot rod after the Charlotte race, but I can't say much about it, except it was developed completely in-house, and I think it will surprise a lot of folk!
Before anyone thinks my life is just about racing and sponsors, I want to set the record straight. Those who follow my blog on NHRA.com or NapaKnowHow.com know how important my family is to me. They go to a lot of races, and I spend as much time as possible at home or with them during their activities. Balancing our four schedules is a challenge, but I work hard to put myself into their worlds as much as possible. I am really glad that my son Caden's Little League games are usually during the week so I can go to as many as I can. My daughter, Taylor, had her Nationals event in Dallas with teams from all over the country as well as Canada the same weekend as Pomona, so my wife, Shelley, and her missed the Winternationals entirely, which was a bummer; however, they won. That was a great phone call to get. One of these times, we will pull off the "double grin."
The life of this drag racer is really summed up at the top of this page. It is a life "On the Run" in so many ways, and despite how hectic it might sound, it is the one I really love.
Ron Capps is the driver of the NAPA Auto Parts
Dodge Charger Funny Car.