In this week’s interview, Speedway Media caught up with Funny Car veteran and Don Schumacher Racing driver, Ron Capps.
During the interview, the San Luis Obispo, California native discussed what he thinks his best season was, his favorite Countdown to the Championship win, his “Welcome to NHRA moment” and if someone were to play him in a movie, who would that person be?
SM: You’ve competed in 571 races since 1995. During your 26 years of racing, which season did you feel was your best and why?
RC: “I would say my best season would definitely have to be, 2016 (the year Capps won the 2016 Funny Car championship,” Capps said. “Looking back, I had some great seasons and memories with different teams such as the Copenhagen team with Don Prudhomme and the years we’ve come close to winning a championship. I would have to say the consistency and the grittiness we had to win the 2016 Championship is the best season I can remember.”
SM: An additional follow-up to that question, since 2007 when the countdown started, you’ve gained six wins and six runner-up finishes. Out of those six wins in the countdown, what’s the most special win you’ve achieved?
RC: “I’m not even sure. It’s funny you ask about those six wins in Countdown (NHRA’s version of a playoff championship). “Honestly, I don’t really remember (those victories). It’s funny because I only remember the races that we lost and the ones we lost I really thought we should have won were close races, to be honest with you.”
SM: At one moment during a driver’s career, they usually experience an explosion in the car whether it’s the body flying off or the motor blowing up, etc. What would you say is the most violent or wildest crash you’ve experienced?
RC: “The SKOAL explosion in Dallas (in 2002) the car body imploded on me, was probably one of the scariest explosions. The explosion trapped my arms in the car,” Capps said. “For sure, not an explosion, but the time (my car) went into the sand traps at Indy upside down and into the net, NHRA’s people (Safety Safari) could not get the net undone. They could not get me out of the car and that was probably two and a half minutes the scariest I’ve been in a Funny Car, just because the only way out of these things are the roof hatch and I couldn’t get out of that or the side windows. A lot of thoughts go through your head when you’re laying upside down with fuel, oil, and all the other stuff making weird noises.”
SM: Has there ever been a moment where you’ve gotten lost at the track? If so, where did you get lost and how did you get back to the right destination?
RC: “There’s been plenty of times where I have almost gotten into the wrong tow vehicle where we run special paint schemes and different colored cars and different things for NAPA, especially with cars you’re not used to,” he said. “I’m used to the original color. There’s been cars where I’ve seen change their color and other times like that where I’ve gotten a little bit lost at the track.”
SM: Most drivers have their “Welcome to NHRA moment.” For you, when did you have that moment and how did you take that learning lesson moving forward?
RC: “The first time I felt like I made it was in Topeka, Kansas with (the late) Al Hoffman (NHRA drag racer and team owner),” Capps said. Al Hoffman invited me to go back and hang out at the bar and offered to buy me a beer. I sat and had beers with Al Hoffman, which was one of those cool moments.”
SM: If your driving career was over tomorrow, but you had the option to stay in the sport whether it’s as a crew chief, engineer, specialist, in marketing, etc., what would your other career choice be if you stuck around in motorsports, but were not racing in the Funny Car?
RC: “If I stuck around the sport and had another job of sorts, eventually I would love to be a team owner and that’s my goal,” he said. “If I had another job at the track, I would love to work with younger drivers or be some sort of coach or maybe a team manager type of thing.”
SM: Sometimes people get mistaken for other people and that especially happens in racing a lot. Have you ever been mistaken for someone while at the drag strip and if so, who?
RC: “The funniest thing is and it happened to him, I would get called Jimmie Johnson,” Capps said. “I would be walking out of a Supercross race in Anaheim or at another event or something and I had people yell out Jimmie Johnson! He (Johnson) has had it done as well to him. My wife always laughs about it because she always sees the comparison between us.”
SM: If you could relive a moment in your career, what moment are you choosing to relive?
RC: “Some of those wins at the races when the kids were young and I have plenty of pictures around the house that we’ve been going through,” he said. “You take it for granted, especially when the kids are that young. Gosh, Sonoma with the kids in my arms in the winner circle. The first double with Don Prudhomme against Larry Dixon. I had my kids in my arms during the interview area, which was 1998.”
SM: You have 26 No. 1 qualifiers with your first coming in ‘97 at Seattle. Favorite No. 1 qualifier?
RC: “Honestly, this year in Gainesville,” Capps said. “We had John Medlen (veteran tuner who works for Don Schumacher Racing) and a lot of new stuff and getting used to new things. It was a lot like starting over. That was a big moment to come out with a brand new team and win the pole at the very first Camping World race.”
SM: I am sure there are many achievements that you would like to cross off the list before you retire, however, is there a checklist or bucket list item that you want to complete before retirement?
RC: “I’ve talked about it before, but going back to Top Fuel, would be one of them,” he said. “Going back to where I started as a professional, I someday would love to go back there (Top Fuel) and get to race with some of these drivers and teams who I don’t get to compete against in Funny Car. Teammate Antron Brown, Leah (Pruett), of course, (Billy and Steve) Torrence, Doug Kalitta. It would be fun to do that before I get out of the car completely. I know a lot of drivers in the past have done that and went back and forth (between classes). That (going back to Top Fuel) would be a big thing I would like to check off the list.”
SM: For someone who doesn’t know what it is like sitting in a Funny Car, can you describe the feeling of going 330 mph in a matter of seconds?
RC: “Luckily, I wore those glasses and posted the view on my social media pages inside a Funny Car,” Capps said. “It’s an amazing thing to go back and watch that (Funny Car runs during a camera view). Trying to describe it, the time you step on the gas in a Funny Car, it’s complete and utter controlled chaos. It’s like the world is flying apart for 3.8 seconds and you’re doing everything you can to keep it in the middle of the track, knowing you have everybody behind you. Controlled chaos is the best description I have.”
SM: Wrapping this interview up, let’s say someone is going to play you in a racing movie. What would the title of the movie be and who is going to play Ron Capps?
RC: “Shoot, I think Controlled Chaos like I said earlier, kind of a catchy thing,” he said. “I think it would be cool for somebody to have a breakout role, somebody that is up and coming that nobody really knows and their career takes off for some small movie about me.”
Throughout Capps’s career, the Don Schumacher Racing driver has 571 starts, 66 career wins (second on the all-time win list to John Force), 61 runner-up finishes, 104 semi-final round appearances, 124 quarter round and 200 first-round appearances. He has 26 No. 1 qualifiers and 19 DNQs with a win-loss record of 772 to 486.