CAPPS ‘HAVING FUN AGAIN’ AS NHRA FULL THROTTLE SERIES RETURNS TO ITS ROOTS IN KANSAS, SITE OF FIRST ‘NATIONALS’
TOPEKA, Kan. – As one of the most accomplished students of the great history of NHRA Championship Drag Racing, Ron Capps gets goosebumps just thinking about returning to Kansas to compete in a professional drag race.
Due to the flat landscape and its central proximity to the rest of the country, in 1955 Kansas served as the official host for NHRA’s first “National Event,” on an airstrip near the town of Great Bend. It was simply called “The Nationals,” and with that event, hot-rodding enthusiasts across the U.S. could test their machines against the best of the best.
That race evolved into what is today the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, but Kansas has solidified its place in NHRA drag racing history. Topeka’s Heartland Park has hosted NHRA Full Throttle Series events since 1989 and in some seasons hosted two events per year. Today the track is regarded as one of the fastest on the circuit and every year drivers get to return and pay homage to the sport’s roots.
“What is so special to me is just going to Kansas to race where it really all started,” Capps said. “I’m a West Coast guy, but the first NHRA national event 57 years ago was held here in Kansas at Great Bend. Now, Heartland Park Topeka is a long way from what it was like at Great Bend, but the spirit of competition is still there.”
Capps’ competitive spirit is at an all-time high right now as the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger driver is riding a wave of momentum from his first victory of the season two weeks ago at Atlanta Dragway. After Capps failed to qualify for the Las Vegas event in April, team owner Don Schumacher made a change to Capps’ team, reassigning veteran crew chief Rahn Tobler to the job. Since then, the team has produced great results and has advanced to three consecutive finals rounds, ultimately winning at Atlanta.
Capps is ready to keep his hot streak going at the Dollar General NHRA Summernationals, May 18-20 at Heartland Park Topeka. Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Shane Gray (Pro Stock) are the defending winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event that will be televised on ESPN2HD.
“This is such a great team, and right from the get-go in Charlotte, the first run reminded me how fun it can be to race again,” Capps said. “When Don [Schumacher, team owner] made the move and put me with Rahn [Tobler] and John Collins, I’m telling you, it was just unbelievable. It is so much fun to get in the car and know it’s going to be a hot rod.”
With the win, Capps moved into a tie for second place in the point standings with Mike Neff, who failed to qualify for the race in Atlanta after winning in Houston. The series leader, Hight, has won the last two events at HPT and will be trying for a three-peat in his Auto Club Ford Mustang. Earlier this season, Hight won four consecutive races to open up a big lead on the rest of the top 10 drivers in the category.
While Hight has dominated at the Kansas track in recent years, Capps has had quite a bit of success himself at Heartland Park during his career. He’s claimed wins there in 1998, 2006 and 2009. He posted a runner-up finish to John Force there in 2000.
“We won for the first time there in 1998 beating Al Hofmann, but it wasn’t until eight years later when we won again,” Capps said. “We have been able to celebrate there three times, so I like the track.”
Other Funny Car drivers who have had success at Heartland Park include Force, who has won there nine times, and two-time world champ Cruz Pedregon, a four-time winner at HPT. The only other active driver in the 7,000-horsepower category who has won there is Tony Pedregon, a three-time winner. Others to watch include defending world champ Matt Hagan, who is trying to get into the top 10 in the standings after a slow start to the season, Jack Beckman, Johnny Gray, Bob Tasca III and high-profile rookies Courtney Force and Alexis DeJoria.
In Top Fuel, most of the story centers around seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher, who is in the middle of a 30-race winless drought that dates back to Oct. 2010. He hasn’t won in 11 straight final round appearances, including four this season, but all is not lost as he comes into the event as the series points leader in his famed U.S. Army dragster. Schumacher’s lone win at HPT came in 2010. The Top Fuel drivers who have been winning all of the races this season include three-time winner Spencer Massey and two-time winner Morgan Lucas. Antron Brown and Steve Torrence have also visited winner’s circle. Several past HPT winners in the field would like to make a repeat performance including two-time winner Brandon Bernstein, David Grubnic, Doug Kalitta, and Hillary Will.
Greg Anderson has been leading the way in Pro Stock with three victories and holds the series lead over teammate Jason Line, the defending world champ who is also a winner this year. Team Mopar’s Allen Johnson, Mike Edwards, Vincent Nobile, Erica Enders and Larry Morgan are all among the top contenders in the 200 mph category.
* SCHEDULE: Full Throttle Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Friday, May 18, and noon and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 19. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 20.
* TICKETS: Tickets are available for the Dollar General NHRA Summernationals. For tickets, please call Heartland Park Topeka at (785) 43-RACES (72237) or visit www.hpt.com
* ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 5 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, May 19. ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage at 7 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, May 20.
* LUCAS OIL SERIES: The Dollar General NHRA Summernationals also will feature competition in seven categories in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series, where the future stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Series are born. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 8 a.m. on May 18. Lucas Oil Series eliminations begin at 8 a.m. on May 19 and continue through May 20.
* ON THE WEB: Get live timing, scoring, multimedia and the latest news updates from every NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event on the Internet at www.nhra.com. Visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
DOLLAR GENERAL NHRA SUMMERNATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 24th annual Dollar General NHRA Summernationals, the eighth of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Drivers in three categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock – earn points leading to 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Heartland Park Topeka. From Kansas City, take the Kansas Turnpike (I-70) to the Topeka Boulevard exit and travel south to the track. From Wichita, take the Kansas Turnpike (I-335) to the Topeka Boulevard exit and travel south to the track.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, May 18-20
FRIDAY, May 18 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying at 8 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, May 19 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations begin at 8 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at noon and 2:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, May 20 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10:15 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, May 19, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 5 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, May 20, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage starting at 7 p.m. (ET).
SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):
Friday, May 18, 10:30-11 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 18C
Saturday, May 19, 7:30 -8 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 18C
Sunday, May 20, 7:30-8 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 18C
(4060 MHz, vertical; Data Rate: 40.461470554 Mbp; Symbol Rate: 29.27 Ms; FEC: ¾; Bandwidth: 36 Mhz)
Video news release contains race action highlights each day and winners’ interviews on Sunday.
2011 EVENT WINNERS: Spencer Massey, Top Fuel; Robert Hight, Funny Car; Shane Gray, Pro Stock.
MOST VICTORIES: John Force, 9, FC; Scott Kalitta, 6, TF; Warren Johnson, 5, PS, Cruz Pedregon, 4, FC; Greg Anderson, 4, PS.
Top Fuel – 3.785 seconds by Antron Brown, May ’10; 324.12 mph by Tony Schumacher, May ’11.
Funny Car – 4.054 seconds by Jack Beckman, May ’11; 313.66 mph by Beckman, May ’11.
Pro Stock – 6.638 seconds by Mike Edwards, May ’10; 207.56 mph by Edwards, May ’10.
Top Fuel – 3.735 sec. by Del Worsham, Oct. ’11, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
Funny Car – 3.995 sec. by Matt Hagan, Sept. ’11, Charlotte, N.C.; 318.99 mph by Jack Beckman, Sept. ’11, Charlotte, N.C.
Pro Stock – 6.477 sec. by Jason Line, Oct. ’11, Reading, Pa.; 213.91 mph by Jason Line, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
TICKETS: For tickets call Heartland Park Topeka at (800) 43-RACES (72237). Tickets also available at www.HPT.com.