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November 3, 2016

Ron Capps

Glendora, California

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by Ron Capps, driver of the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger RT Funny Car. Ron has five wins and five runner-up finishes so far this year. He is first in points and leads teammate Matt Hagan by 86. He's got 50 career wins and is yet to secure that elusive world championship. Ron, can you feel that championship on your fingertips?

RON CAPPS: Yeah. I mean, definitely a little bit looser going into Pomona than we were going into Vegas. We had it decently going into Vegas. With two races left, you start to I guess whittle down the amount of rounds left more than -- and sort of run them out of rounds trying to catch it than anything else.

Yeah, it's by far not over, and a lot of people at SEMA and at the race yelling out across the parking lot, Hey, this is your championship, but it's not over. We still need to get there and do our business and clinch it. I've seen some pretty miraculous things happen at Pomona over the years, and we definitely don't want to be one of those statistics.

THE MODERATOR: You got off to a good start winning the Winter Nationals here in Pomona, but the summertime is where you really hit your stride. What was going on mid-season that provided us with some of the most consistent racing up until now?

RON CAPPS: Well, a lot of things were going on. We had a lot of guys in the shop building some new things that we knew were coming down throughout our teams, and right around Topeka, our teammates really went fast in Topeka, and we didn't run that bad, but we knew we were getting those parts right after Topeka, and Tobler, right after we lost in Topeka, he said, ok, we're going to be fine, we got parts we're waiting on that race, and Epping was that race. We started there with a track record, and I think at the time the second quickest run in history, the first run in Epping off the trailer, and low qualifier there and won, and then went on to Englishtown, did the same thing, and it just -- we just gained a lot of momentum through the summer.

We were able to sort of get our lead back after leading the points at the beginning of the season, and we did that through the summer and positioned ourselves to end the regular season and gain a 20-point bonus, which was big. Everything sort of came together as a plan with Tobler and our NAPA team, and you know, I said to the media, many of them, that I thought to win a championship it was going to have to be a semifinals or better average in the Funny Car division.

Then my teammate Tommy Johnson went on a roll and he was in a bunch of final rounds, and we were next to him for several of those, and I thought, uh-oh, he's going to prove us wrong, you're going to have to be in final rounds, just how tight the Funny Car division is. But we were able to keep the pressure on and gain those points in qualifying, and here we are.

Q. Do you feel more comfortable going into this final race than any other previous season, or do you feel even more pressure going into this event than any other season?
RON CAPPS: Well, it's a little of both. You would think I would -- you know, gosh, a lot of people are saying it's sewn up, even on our team, and God, I just keep holding my hand out going, no, stop, stop thinking that way. Right now it's 86 points. We need to keep that above 80 points to be realistic and know that we're going to for sure clinch without having any pressure of having something go wrong on Sunday. And if we gain those qualifying points and match Hagan's team or gain more of those qualifying points than they do, we'll keep it above 80, and I say above 80 because then they have to go 100 to pass us, and that's more than what's there for Sunday at Pomona.

If they gain the points and out-qualify us and get it below 80, then we obviously have to win first round to clinch it, but you just don't know. You don't want to assume anything.

The good thing is Rahn Tobler is so experienced that it's business as usual, and he's been able to reach in the window and point to me every run in qualifying and race day, and especially in Vegas, where it just -- to me I'm going up and trying to do the same thing I've done for 19 years, and that's just be -- I guess be money for the team and just do the same thing every time so they can count on me and not make a mistake.

So that's what we've done.

To answer your question, we just need to keep doing it at Pomona, and listen, we didn't qualify the first Vegas race in April, and there was lots of big-name teams that didn't qualify here and there throughout the year. You can't take that for granted.

That's the one cool thing about NHRA is you have to earn your spot every weekend. There's no provisionals like NASCAR, so you're not guaranteed. So when we're qualifying, we run a good lap, hopefully Friday on the first run, that's the first step of our goal is to get qualified. There is 22 cars entered, and it's going to be a good show for the fans.

Q. A little pressure on you: If you can win this championship, who's the first person you'd love to hear from?
RON CAPPS: Well, most of my family, it's a home race, so they're all going to be there. You know, besides the people that are actually going to be there, it would probably be maybe Don Prudhomme. I'm not sure if he'll be there that day. He was such a big mentor for me as a professional, my first owner and driving for him for almost a decade as one of my heroes, probably him. Besides obviously Don Schumacher and everybody that's going to be right there at the race.

Q. Do you have any mental preparation you do in the car no matter if you're up or if you're down? Do you have say a little session that you do to keep your mind up and to keep yourself headed in the right direction before you hit that starter and go down the track?
RON CAPPS: Yeah. You know, that's one of the biggest questions we get is if we're superstitious, and I always say, no, I'm not, and then I rattle off all the things that I do every single time before I get in the car, and so I guess it's not really superstitious, it's just I try to do the same thing every time. I sit in the tow vehicle and I kind of hang out with my crew guys a little bit before I get in the car, and two of them help me get in the car and get strapped in, so it's always the same thing, same sort of conversation, same handshakes from each one of them, put the left glove on first every time, little things that we just do naturally every time.

You know, my daughter, I just got her Super Comp license two weeks ago at Fontana, and I was so adamant to her about going over in your head everything over and over and over, and I found myself in Vegas sitting in the staging lanes getting ready to run and laughing at myself because I was sitting in there touching the reverser lever, then making sure the ignition switch was off, then touching my air bottle, then touching the fuel lever, over and over, and I do that -- I've been driving 19 years, and I've done that religiously.

It's kept me in check and made sure I didn't make any mistakes in the car. I guess to answer your question, I'm just -- I keep doing what we've been doing, and obviously I had a lot of anxiety in Vegas, all of us did, to make sure that we kept the points lead.

Doing the same thing really helped me, and especially race day. I went up there and was able to act like it was just another run, and I think that's probably what's helped us mostly.

Q. And that helps keep some of the pressure off then?
RON CAPPS: Yeah, and again, Rahn Tobler has been there. Look at his past, as being a mentor, a crew chief. We have a great relationship. He's sort of a bigger brother to me, and we've had -- this year has been a great year for us relationship-wise. We've really come close. So when I see that confidence and I see him point at me and he walks away from the starting line, I realize my confidence level is higher than it's probably ever been, and that helps me roll up and light the pre-stage light.

Q. You say you don't want to count things -- don't want to get ahead of yourself, but you're going to Pomona. You've won there before. Along with Sonoma it's one of your home tracks. The fans are going to be going crazy for you. A whole lot of them are going to be coming down from the central coast. Does it give you any more confidence with all of that support, any more energy from the crowd? Does it make you relax a little bit more?
RON CAPPS: Yeah, it is. When you tow back at Pomona, you go right in front of the grandstands, and historically this race is packed, and I'm sure we're probably going to have a sellout like we have had at a lot of these races this year, being that it's going to be good weather, it's the end of the year, and it's the finals.

I've already gotten the phone calls and text messages from a lot of the actor friends I know, the rock stars that I've gotten to know that always attend Pomona, and so far it's kind of typical for Pomona, but I can sense that it's a lot more people hitting me up and a lot more excitement in the air.

So I know a lot of my cousins, a lot of my relatives that are coming down from my hometown of San Luis Obispo, the people I've known since I've lived here in San Diego, it's more than usual, so I sense it, but I've got good people around me. My wife and my cousin, Donnie, who lives right near Pomona takes care of my ticket situations, which takes a huge load off me for Pomona. They hand out where the tickets go, and believe me, that sounds easy, but you talk to any athlete, guys playing last night in the World Series, football players, that can be a distraction when you've got to worry about making sure all your family is taken care of with their tickets, as easy as that sounds.

That's always been a big deal for me is to make sure I've got everybody covered that I want to make sure are covered. It's going to be huge. It always is towing back in front of that grandstands. I get the biggest applause and people yelling. It just is such a killer feeling, man. It's just a great feeling.

I can't wait. You know, I'm hoping we can do everything right and we can finally finish this deal and I can do it -- somebody asked me about Vegas, and I said, I'm almost glad we didn't clinch it there because the historical value that you get at Pomona with Wally Parks and his name right there and the fact that it's Pomona, it just could not be better, and on top of it, it's the 50th birthday of the Funny Car, and it's been counting down all year long, and it's been fun to celebrate that all year long. We'll have all the hitters, all my heroes, Funny Car guys probably at the track, so I just couldn't think of a better weekend to do it.

Q. It looks like Don Schumacher Racing is going to double up in the Nitro Fuel, at least the chances of that are pretty good. I know you said you don't want to get ahead of yourself, but how much support and encouragement have you gotten from your teammates and Don?
RON CAPPS: Oh, a huge amount. Dickie Venables even came over afterward on Sunday and just kind of -- we had a little talk, and we've been battling him for a championship and still are. They've got a chance. But it was a neat thing for him to come over and give me the speech that he gave me.

A lot of us have been around the sport a long time, and it's neat that you battle these people that are also our family when things go down for somebody in our sport. Everybody is quick to be there for them.

Having teammates, the funny thing is they're my teammates, but we battle them -- the hardest battles I have are against my teammates, and here we are fighting for a championship, and the three guys behind me basically are my teammates.

It has been tough, especially when they're sharing information, our crew chiefs are close. That's made it a little tougher. But it's good that everybody has been able to stay friends, Monday through Friday at least.

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