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March 9, 2016

Ron Capps

Glendora, California

THE MODERATOR: Ron won the season opening event in Pomona for his 45th Funny Car win and his 46th overall Mello Yello Drag Racing series victory and his lone one Top Fuel win coming in 1995. He has 45 career Funny Car wins, second in the category trailing John Force and he also raced to his second round appearance in Phoenix and he's a three-time Gator Nationals winner, including last season.

Ron, thanks a lot, I know busy day today for you, thank you for joining us. How important is it or how good does it feel for you to get off the season on such a strong start?

RON CAPPS: It's always awesome for a lot of reasons. We ended the season very, very well in Pomona and actually in the Countdown, we had a pretty darned good Countdown, all but one race went to the semifinals, so very consistent. Dell and Jack just had a much better Countdown.

And so end of the year, we just wanted to sort of take everything apart and put everything back together and worked on a few things and tune-up wise left it alone and sure enough we rolled out of Pomona No. 2 qualifier and ended up winning the race.

We have a great Hot Rod now. He's really got consistency in the clutch department, which is huge. I've got a lot of confidence now as a driver for sure.

THE MODERATOR: You talk about consistency. Has your team pretty much remained the same? Is it pretty much intact from the end of last year going into this year?

RON CAPPS: Yeah, we've been Napa I believe eight years and pretty much had the same core of guys. We have one guy that left, actually decided to stay home and take care of his dad. So the guy that replaced him was somebody that was NDSR and had taken a break and gone home a couple years ago. So it worked great and he came back on and he was friends with the guys on my crew.

It's been pretty nice to every off-season to know you've got the same guys buckling you in, the same guys taking everything apart. That's always nice as a race car driver to know that everything's just kind of continuing on from the year before.

Q. What makes Gator Nationals a major?
RON CAPPS: Well, I grew up in California, going obviously with my dad to Lions and Bakersfield, Fremont, places like that. And all I had to read was Drag News and National Dragster and Hot Rod and all those magazines.

As a kid growing up with a dad that raced on weekends, sort of the track champion on the central coast of California in Santa Maria, the big races to us were obviously Pomona. And then you read about Indianapolis which obviously was the biggest race but Gainesville was always the one you read about.

It seemed so far away to a kid in California, just reading about the history of it, seeing the highlights with Darrell Gwynn and Big Daddy going at it. Those were some great moments.

And so when I finally got to go as a Top Fuel driver, I felt like I was traveling across the world and then to win my first time in Funny Car, words doesn't describe to be able to win a race that big.

Yeah, all the drivers tell you, it's the first race on the east coast, it's sort of the winter nationals of the east coast. But what's funny is, and I've raced there a lot, sometimes you kind of -- I forget why it's so big or how it's so big, until that Friday when you're driving in, and you pull up that main highway and start going up that road. And there's just camper after camper on the right-hand side, and people that have been camped there all week, that travel all over the place -- it hits you. It's like, wow, it's something you don't see at all the races and it goes on for a mile-and-a-half, two miles.

You know, it doesn't take very much to remind you once you pull in those gates.

Q. You've won three of them, how special are those to you when you look back on your career?
RON CAPPS: They are all in their own way pretty special. Like I said, it was hard to believe we won it the first time when Ed McCulloch was my crew chief. I couldn't imagine I was sitting in the winner's circle with Ed “The Ace” McCulloch and Don Schumacher after winning the Gator Nationals. It was bizarre for me, and to win it again.

And then last year, we started the weekend by blowing up on Friday and destroying our brand new body and the sort of mistake I made when the car got out of the groove, we were trying to qualify. I was mad at myself but to come back like we did on Sunday, and Tobler gave me a great race car. There are just days you feel like you can't be beat, and that was one of those days.

Then you sort of realize at the end of the day when you take that turnoff, just won the Gator Nationals again. They are all pretty special. And it's usually not until the morning after you wake up and you realize it wasn't a dream and you won the Gator nationals again.

Q. With the great TV coverage that NHRA gets, recently especially, fans get close to feeling what it's like to go 300 miles an hour. Could you talk about what you actually do: What's the most fun and what's the most work?
RON CAPPS: Yeah, The TV thing, it's going to get better and better, believe me. The cameras, the story line, they are working on different ways to show it to you to kind of bring the fans a little closer and show the actual speed of the cars.

They had the camera guys on the grandstands last year -- last race in Phoenix, and that was a great view. I loved seeing that because it really shows you what the fans see and hopefully they are going to do more stuff like that.

But I don't know about the hardest. What's funny is having live TV is sort of something we've all wanted so bad as racers and owners and crew chiefs for our sport. Everything that we have started this year, it's just such a long time coming.

Listening to Leah, I remember my rookie year in '95 when I won in Top Fuel, for several years after that, even when I started driving for Don 'The Snake' Prudhomme, those first few years of Funny Car, we used to fly in and do pre event press, maybe a couple weeks before Gainesville, we would fly into Orlando and NHRA would take us around.

And we would be doing interviews with sports people, guys or girls, that were asking me how long our pit stops took or just questions that you almost -- you had to sort of educate a lot and I felt like I was always on a soap box, and I was having to sell our sport and used to make me so mad and I'd get so aggravated.

I'd leave there and say, why am I having to try to sell this sport. If somebody came the first time, you don't have to sell them. They are coming back. Guaranteed, they are coming back. They are hooked. It just was weird to do that for a long time.

Now it's so neat to see what Peter Clifford, what everybody has done with NHRA. These first two races this year have been super exciting. Even to win the first race and have it be the 50th year of the Funny Car, there's so much going on. Leah, winning her first race two, girls in the final round, a lot of cool stuff. It's finally nice to see the sport where it should be.

Q. As far as when you're in that car, what's work to you?
RON CAPPS: In a Funny Car, I don't know about the Top Fuel car now, but you don't enjoy the run itself, unfortunately. You're fighting for your life to do everything right and make the right quick decision. There's six or seven or eight or nine or ten people line you, including the owner, standing behind the car that spent hours working on a car; you don't want to mess up.

The actual run, you're just fighting for your life to keep this thing straight and not make a mistake that once the chutes come out, you sort of reflect for a second on how enjoyable it was. But during the run, there's no enjoyment, man, it's crazy.

So I'd probably say once the chutes come out, that's probably the easiest part. The hardest part is being strapped in the car and having somebody have an accident in front of you like Densham did in Pomona. That's hard to be in the car and have that happen and hear your guys all run up to see what happened and come on the radio and tell you it was a bad accident. That's probably the toughest thing as a driver.

Q. You had spoken about how your car was consistent at the end of last year. You come in very consistent beginning of this year. Does that give you a lot of confidence going into the long haul of the season that maybe this time, with the consistency being great out of the gates, that you can seal the deal and win a championship?
RON CAPPS: Yeah, like I just said a minute ago, we went to all by one of the races went to the semifinals. That's pretty consistent and that will win you championships a lot of the time.

The problem was we weren't showing up and being No. 1 qualifier and taking all those points. We weren't taking all those little qualifying points in every session. We weren't setting the record. We were running good but we just weren't running the big, big numbers like that and that's a conscious thing that Ron and the guys worked on in the off-season.

Look, Pomona, we were No. 2 qualifier, Phoenix, No. 1 qualifier and we stole a lot of those little points in qualifying that are extra bonus points. So that's what we didn't do in the last few years.

And I'm confident already in the car and Tobler has already had just a very consistent car, which will win races a lot of time to force our opponents to make mistakes, knowing we are going to go down the track. But now he's turned up the notch a little bit when he had to and I think that's sort of been the difference.

I really think during the Countdown, that's when it's going to count. You're going to have to throw the big numbers like Dell and Jack did from time to time last year. Had we done that a couple times, we would be the champion. I think that was kind of the only missing thing we had as a team.

Q. Where does Rahn rank to you? You've had some great crew chiefs over the years.
RON CAPPS: We've won a lot of races. I've gotten to work with Roland Leong, Ed “The Ace” McCulloch, the late Dale Armstrong, some pretty cool crew chiefs.

And Tobler, we had a pretty good talk on Saturday night between our qualifying runs and first round and it was a little bit of a heated discussion between him and I where we disagreed on something. And it was the first time we sort of sat for about an hour and hashed something out, and it showed on Sunday that it was a good thing because I enjoy racing with him.

I really enjoy racing with him on the racetrack and then away from the racetrack. There's not a lot of people at the racetrack I would go spend, you know, dinner out with, and maybe go see a concert that are crew chiefs. But he's one of those guys, that I really enjoy being around.

So I've gotten to work with guys like Ed “The Ace” McCulloch. He didn't talk much. If he didn't say anything to you, you did good. You didn't ask questions. Roland, just such a unique guy. And Tobler, I think I've won more races with anybody as far as a crew chief than I've had in the past with him. He's just a lot of fun to be around.

THE MODERATOR: As always, thank you very much for your time.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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