Autoweek NHRA insider Ron Capps' blog: Going head to head with teammates always a challenge

Ron Capps is fourth in the NHRA Funny Car points race heading itno thiis weekend’s battle at Brisltol Dragway.

(Editor’s note: This is the 11th in a series of exclusive Autoweek blogs by NHRA Funny Car driver and 2016 champion Ron Capps. Capps continued his 2019 season this past weekend at Topeka, where he fell to Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. in the quarterfinals. Capps slipped to fourth in the Funny Car season standings, 13 points behind third-place John Force. This week, Capps is off to Bristol Dragway, where he leads all active Funny Car racers with five career wins.)

It was an OK weekend for us. We ended up running into our teammate Tommy Johnson in the second round, and we had side-by-side runs that were two of the best runs that round. It just so happened that we ended up on the losing end.

It’s been a strange last few weekends where we’ve seen some of the hottest cars right now in the Funny Car class not qualifying in the top half. It can make for some tough early rounds of eliminations. That goes for us, too. We won two races and didn’t exactly qualify the greatest at those.

Ron Capps, left, trails long-time rival John Force, right, by 13 points for third place in the Funny Car standings.

Tommy and his crew chief — John Collins — are great examples of how good Don Schumacher Racing is. Before he went over to Tommy’s team, John Collins was my crew chief Rahn Tobler’s right-hand guy and assistant for almost a decade. John was my go-to guy with the team. I’ve known him a long time. John actually worked with me when I raced at Don Prudhomme’s, and I knew he was going to be a successful crew chief one day. Once we let him out of the nest and put him on another team, we knew we’d be racing against him a lot.

When I race against John, it’s like racing Rahn Tobler. John thinks like Rahn Tobler. He learned everything from Rahn Tobler, and he approaches every run that way. I really feel like that’s one of the toughest cars that we have to race. Tommy is a great driver. It’s almost like running against my own car. It’s sort of strange sometimes.

Ron Capps heads to Bristol this week, where he’s a five-time winner.

Tommy and I were teammates at Don “Snake” Prudhomme’s team. I was with Don for nine years, and Tommy was my teammate for three or four of those. He’s a friend of the family, and we’ve been teammates two times. Every time we race each other, it’s a battle.

Everybody likes to talk about my rivalry with John Force — and he’s got a really good car this year, and he’s been tough. But I still put my teammates up there as just as tough to beat. I really feel like we’re racing against our own equipment.

The more we want to race each other and beat each other, it takes eveybody’s level up in the whole DSR camp. These last three or four years, we’ve raced Tommy Johnson for the championship, down to the wire. He’s been in the hunt.

We always know he’s going to be there. I just hate running into that car early in the day, in the early rounds of eliminations. We’ve just got to try and qualify a little better.

Now, it’s on to Bristol. This is the fun part of the season for me. It’s very demanding. It’s hot. It’s humid.

The cream rises to the top. It’s what brings the very best out. When we get to tracks like this, the 140-plus-degree track temperatures, you have to be your best to win races, period. To win in the conditions we’ll be seeing through the summer is a challenge. I always look forward to these tracks because as a team we come together.

The record I’ve had at Bristol, I can’t explain why I’ve done so well there, other than I really love the people there and it’s a track — SMI  is such a great company — where when they ask you to go to the suite to say hi to customers or do a fanfest or anything else, you don’t hesitate. You just say yes.

Besides that, Thunder Valley is one of the coolest places, spectator-wise. As a driver, you fire down through there at 330 mph, you hit the parachutes and that sound just echoes through the valley. It’s really a unique place. It’s definitely a fun race.

We just need to position ourselves better in qualifying so we don’t have to race these cars that are getting hot this time of the season so early in the day.

2016 NHRA Mello Yello Series Funny Car champion Ron Capps, 53, drives the NAPA Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car for Don Schumacher Racing. He has 63 career NHRA victories, including 62 in the Funny Car class.

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