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National Hot Rod Association Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Drag Racing Topics:  NHRA

National Hot Rod Association Media Conference

Ron Capps
August 22, 2013

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by Ron Capps, driver of the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger. Ron is taking part at the test session here at Lucas Oil Raceway today. Ron, we appreciate your time.
RON CAPPS: Good to be here, thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Ron has won two of the past three NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events, but unfortunately, Sam was between those two events with an uncharacteristic DNQ in Seattle. Ron, that three‑race stretch was quite the roller coaster for you. Is that just the nature of the Funny Car category right now?
RON CAPPS: Yeah, it is, absolutely. We talk about it every year and how tough this class gets. It seems like a broken record where you just keep saying it's tougher and tougher. Good cars keep coming in.
I know a lot of the media that's on the line right now, we've all talked about the beginning of the season and the off‑season. Talking about looking at the list and seeing who, obviously, there are too many cars that make the Countdown, too many good teams, trying to hypothetically look at the list and say who won't be in it or who probably won't be in it. It's hard to say at the beginning of the year because you know there will be two or three really good cars, really big sponsor teams that there's no room for them.
I was kind of hoping NHRA would do something like NASCAR where they open up a little bit of a wildcard or another incentive way to get another team in, because there are just too many teams to get in. So, therefore, it tells you how tough our category is.

Q. Congratulations on your last win.
RON CAPPS: Thanks, appreciate it.

Q. Now, we've seen the song and dance for the last couple of years of when is the right time to peak for the Countdown. But watching you guys win Sonoma and the unfortunate mishap at Seattle then coming back to win at Brainerd, is it safe to say that you guys are pulling like the cold trickle where you circle around and catch the pack? What I'm really trying to say is are you guys really where you want to be with the Countdown starting?
RON CAPPS: Yeah, I feel like hopefully I can look back in November and say that that Seattle DNQ it meant much more of a positive. It's a good thing it happened when it happened for a couple of reasons. One, Tobler knows what happened can bite him and he wasn't quite aware it could have that easily. That's why it wasn't the normal procedure as far as setting the timers. But it's good it happened when it happened because if it does in the Countdown, you can almost write your ticket out of the Countdown.
Also, I think it reminded the rest of our team just how tough it is and how important it is. Because, look, we're going to have at least one, unfortunately, one race in the Countdown that's going to have weather like that where it's going to come down to the fact we have all the races in a row. We can't have a rain out. We might be limited to two qualifying runs. You're going to have to have your act together. There is going to be a big name team that might be fighting for a championship and the Countdown is going to have the same phase. I think that happened at a good time for us.

Q. Last year you came so close, and you've had a whole year to look back on last year, and I understand that you don't drive through life looking through the rearview mirror. But is there one thing that you looked back on last year that you're definitely has changed for you this year that you're not going to do that you did last year?
RON CAPPS: No. I don't think I could change a thing last year. It's easy to look back at certain qualifying runs that we could have and should have. All it is going to do is aggravate you. I felt like at the end of the year, even though we lost that day, Sunday, you know, all the emotion my daughter had at the other end of the track. But we got back to the pit area and within an hour, I looked back and said we had a great season. It was almost a fantastic ending, but it just didn't happen.
Bobby, I really don't. I've sat, and believe me, in the past when I lost to Scelzi that year, I really felt there were times we could have changed this or that and run better here or there. I just can't change a thing of how last season went. We set the all‑time quickest run. We had such a great season, and I knew we were going to have another chance if we kept the team together. So it wasn't that bad.

Q. You made the comment that you wished there were more people included after the U.S. Nationals. Did you have any fear at the beginning of this year that come the time of the U.S. Nationals you might be one of the magnificent drivers looking at how close you might have missed the chance to run for the championship?
RON CAPPS: No, and that goes back to Bobby's question. The answer I have is I really felt like we could just hit the ground running again this season at West Palm at the preseason test, and we were going to be fine.
I tell you guys, I don't have that thought in my head. I mean, Tobler has had such a great tune‑up that if we get off a little trying things, he's got a great way of getting back to where we were. And I didn't feel that at all. I also didn't feel like we would DNQ anywhere.
So if you're so cocky to think that it's not possible, then you're ignorant. But if you're confident, you know, listen, things happen, like in Seattle. But I would have told you there is no way we would have DNQ'ed anywhere. So it's hard to say.
Anything is possible. But I don't think any time in January did I ever think that we would not have a shot or be vying for a championship or really rolling into September not having any wins.

Q. I know that you watch all kinds of racing. So when you look at somebody like Tony Stewart who has been injured pretty significantly. It's ended the rest of this year for him, what do you feel for a driver like Tony Stewart? And do you ever worry about facing that same risk in the NHRA?
RON CAPPS: Yeah, but look at Jeff Arend, he was hopping a fence to get to the car, Gold Key parking lot to get to his car, fractured his heel and he was out of the race.
I got the text message from Don on Saturday morning. We raced a little off‑road race on Friday, kind of a demo in Brainerd. He sent a text out saying, hey, enough racing other stuff until after Pomona. He's always been very, very, very good about letting me go and race other things because he knows that I check my equipment.
I look at other stuff, and I learned that from Tony Stewart. The first time I got to go race a dirt car was in Tony Stewart's Sprint car in Missouri one year, and he got me going on it. I drove for him at the Chili Bowl, and he put me in the first Prelude and I was in it every year. So I learned that.
When I got the phone call from one of those guys that night, I had gotten the headlines on Twitter that he was hurt bad. There was a lot of stuff floating around that he might have died. Thank God one of his guys called me and said his leg is hurt, but he's not dead. He's okay. His head's all right. That was good, considering what happened to Jason Leffler.
But I knew Tony's injury, I guarantee you, there are a lot of racer that's race other stuff away from the profession. They got a phone call from their owner saying, hey, that's enough. But where it starts to Countdown, I don't get in any other cars. I'll race March Meet next year at the beginning of the year and going to Australia to race a Nostalgia car after the season is over.
But, yes, to answer your question, it does make you think. But I could get hurt worse driving on 465 here at Indy than driving my NAPA Funny Car for sure.

Q. Talk about the dual roles and off the track type stuff, of course you have to have a good image on the track to be fast and you have to have a good image in the public to do the rest of your job. But you take it to a different level. You're part‑time TV and movie star now doing the NAPA commercials and now with the Snake and Mongoose movie. Talk about your dual roles?
RON CAPPS: That's just being lucky to be called to go do it. I posted on Twitter a throwback Thursday picture of the first time I acted. I played an evil cowboy, a bad cowboy in a Western. I was hoping nobody could get ahold of it, but apparently people are buying it on Amazon. It's sort of a comedy, but it was not made to be a comedy. It's fun to look back and watch with the kids, but it's always been fun.
The NAPA commercials we get to do every year are big time on the set, a lot of people on the set. So it's sort of like being on the movie set. So being asked to do The Snake and Mongoose movie was like a kid in the candy store. Growing up, driving, being around the sport of drag racing. Just the movie coming out about Snake and Mongoose, I was so pumped up about it.
Getting the phone call to be in it and playing Lou Baney who was a legendary team owner back then was very cool. I don't know. I'm a lucky guy. Like the Tony Stewart deal, had I not been driving what I do now, there is no way I would have gotten a shot to race all the dirt racing I love to do, even though I loved doing it growing up. I'm just a lucky guy, man.

Q. Talk about that and being able to do that. Not everybody gets to do that. What kind of satisfaction is there? There are probably 3 or 4%, maybe fewer that actually get to do what you love.
RON CAPPS: It's amazing. Once in a while, because I do so much traveling away from the races doing sponsor appearances, if people saw my schedule that I'm not home. There are sometimes I'll sit down and put my head in my hands and go, my gosh, I need to take a breather here, a breather there, or my God, I have to be here or there.
And I stop to realize and I have to remind myself I'm one of the lucky‑‑ gosh, I guess you could say 1% or less‑‑ that gets to drive a Nitro Funny Car for a living. I get to wake up, put a fire suit on as my job and go 320 miles per hour and represent a great company and run around and get to do commercials and movies.
I'm truly blessed. So all that stuff has just kind of come along. But I learned early on and I still learn to take advice and to heed people that I respect their opinions. You know, being around snake, and Don Schumacher and all these guys early on in my career, to stay humble. Connie Kalitta, Ed McCulloch, all these guys I went to for advice in my career.
I've always felt like I've taken the right steps and stayed humble enough. Snake used to say don't drink your own bath water. That just meant don't let your head get too big or start reading your own press clippings. So I really felt like I've listened to these guys. The reason they're successful at what they do, and I felt like the only way I was going to be as successful in this sport and get to do it for a long time was to listen to these guys. So I guess I've done the right thing so far.

Q. Ron, a while ago you mentioned you kind of wished there was a wildcard provision when it comes to playoffs in drag racing. Have you given that a lot of thought? Have you come up with any ideas and what would you like to see in that?
RON CAPPS: Well, we've sort of not copied but gone along with what NASCAR has done so far. I don't see anything wrong with it. I think having a little more incentive here and there for race wins, adding some points once you get in the Countdown. Instead of just the leader, you get the bonus of the one round. So if we stay second, Matt will lead us by 30. That's fine.
I think throwing in some incentive things here and there would make it fun and would get more incentive from race to race. The little qualifying points that NHRA threw in, I think that's awesome. It's fun to count those points and see the crew chief kind of light up if they're first, second or third quickest of each session.
I would like to see a wildcard. I'd like to see 12 cars in it. I'd like to see just more ways of adding up to your points when the Countdown starts. Because that guy could come in sixth place in the Countdown right now, and let's say he got four wins and he's got a few extra points for wins, then it starts mixing stuff up. Rather than a team that might be leading the points but by a few races going into the last couple races and maybe going with a test or something and another team wins a couple races and it vaults them up there to where they could be leading, believe it or not, instead of just being sixth. Something like that. I think a little more of what NASCAR has done would be cool.

Q. So more emphasis on winning national events?
RON CAPPS: Absolutely. Greg Anderson talked about it. There are guys who don't go to every race expecting to win that race. They may be testing something, trying this or that, or they may be on the points lead and trying to coast on through sort of.
I think there are a lot of teams in different mentalities going into races from Denver on that aren't necessarily going there to try to win that race like they would if it was in the Countdown.
I think that robs a little bit to the fans, but, again, NHRA throwing in the qualifying points, that fixed a lot of Saturday testing that the teams would do and just go out and smoke the tires. So anyway we can throw an emphasis on trying to be the quickest car every run and go down the track, like NHRA has done a good job of, and race wins would definitely spice things up.
THE MODERATOR: That will conclude the Ron Capps portion of our conference call today. Ron, always a pleasure to have you on these calls, and thank you for taking time out of your busy afternoon.

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