Author: Caps, Ron
Date published: May 18, 2012
Ron Capps is a busy guy. Two days after the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, instead of heading home for a little break after back-to-back races, he was offto London, Ont., to take part Wednesday in one of the dozens of meet-and-greets he does each year representing his sponsor, NAPA Auto Parts, then offto a store appearance in Marion, Ind., Thursday. Capps had plenty to talk about after he and new crew chief Rahn Tobler conspired to stop John Force Racing's six-race string in Atlanta, giving him his 33rd career Funny Car win, two shy of tying his former boss and mentor, class Hall of Famer Don Prudhomme. Capps also just learned he will have a part in the Snake & Mongoose feature film, in which he'll play Lou Baney, who owned the Yeakel Plymouth Top Fueler that Prudhomme drove in the late 1960s.
Q: Your season sure has turned around since your DNQ in Las Vegas. How much of that is Rahn Tobler and how much is the new car?
A: I knew Rahn from a long time ago and always admired what he's done, but getting to know him more has been really cool. People forget that after he won the world championships with Shirley [Muldowney], he almost won a championship with Dougie [Kalitta, Top Fuel, 2006], then moved on to Cruz [Pedregon] and won a championship [Funny Car, 2008]. He's a very cool guy to work around. Overall, there were things with the [old] car that I didn't like. I just wasn't comfortable in the car; there was something strange about it. It was hard to see out of, even on a good run. It wasn't as fun as it used to be, and I was struggling. It wasn't until the first lap in this car at the [NHRA Four-Wide Nationals] that I was able to go, "Holy [cow], you gotta be kidding me. This is what it used to be like." It was smooth, I could see, and I was comfortable again, so I could start driving like before and hitting the Tree.
Q: With the big rivalry between Don Schumacher Racing and John Force Racing, it must have been cool to put an end to JFR's winning streak. Just how big is the rivalry between the two teams?
A: Oh, it was. Beating Robert [Hight] in the semi's in Houston to end his streak was almost like winning a race because there was so much hype about him winning four in a row, then beating him in the final in Atlanta was something else. It means a lot to Don [Schumacher], and we know it bugs [John] Force. Some guys try to build a false rivalry with themselves and another racer, but this is genuine. It's not one where we don't like each other, but, man, you'd better get up like you never got up before if you want to beat one of those cars. Every win against them is better and every loss against them worse.
Q: Your win in Atlanta was your 33rd in Funny Car, just two behind "the Snake." How's that feel?
A: Really? I didn't know that. Wow. That's huge. It's crazy just to be mentioned in the same sentence as him, but to almost have the same number of wins? That doesn't even seem possible.
Q: It's a different era now with more races each season, but the competition seems a lot more fierce now than the 1970s, true?
A: "Snake" was the dominant force in the 1970s and pretty much stood out on his own. When I came into Funny Car [in 1997], there were maybe three or four serious hitters and some OK cars out there. Today, there's 10 to 13, maybe even a full field, who can whip your ass each weekend and win the race. Just qualifying is tough. It used to be you knew you'd always qualify unless something really went wrong, but now you're more concerned with getting in the show first and scratching that offthe list before you try for No. 1.
Q: How excited are you about being in the movie?
A: It was great to get the call from [Robin Broidy, producer] asking me to be in the film. I've got some experience, with all of the NAPA commercials and some other film work I've done - I even have my [Screen Actors Guild] card already - and she offered me the chance to play [former Prudhomme crew chief] Bob Brandt. I was ready to dive into the role, with the oldschool moustache and sideburns and that Beatles haircut he used to have, but it turned out they're filming those scenes while we're racing in Englishtown. It worked out good because I got a better role, a speaking role, as Lou Baney. I started looking at pictures and old YouTube footage and doing my homework. I just got the script, and it's going to be neat.