Capps paying boss back for hand up with win in sixth straight final

Driver Ron Capps cements his bond with crew chief Rahn Tobler by winning Sunday's Ford Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway in their sixth consecutive final round. He defeated rookie Alexis DeJoria.(Photo By Ron Lewis)

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Six races ago, Ron Capps didn't know the names of most of his new Funny Car crew members. They had worked with his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman.

But with Capps' fate spinning, spiraling, into some unknown territory that wasn't all that promising by the fourth race of the season, boss Schumacher stepped in and switched some personnel. He paired Capps with veteran tuner Rahn Tobler, and together they have advanced to six straight final rounds of NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series action.

Capps paid Schumacher back Sunday by winning the Ford Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway, defeating rookie-of-the-year candidate Alexis DeJoria in the final round.

He joined Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher and the U.S. Army tem in giving DSR a double helping of victory -- capturing both nitro-class Wally trophies at the expense of Kalitta Motorsports. Tony Schumacher out-performed Doug Kalitta in a close side-by-side match-up minutes after Capps won in his NAPA-branded Dodge Charger.

"Every race we go to its just getting stronger and stronger, this bond I have with [crew chief] Rahn Tobler and this team," Capps said. "Don Schumacher gives us everything we need, and it's impressive that Rahn Tobler is able to do what he does with a car. He's such a perfectionist. It's great the communication we have.

"Don has put together such a great team that you could have somebody struggle a little bit and before you know it, standing right behind is a guy to help," he said. "I've always felt that way."

Although Capps declined to say if he thinks this trajectory represents his career-best shot at that elusive first series championship, he did say he has his eye on the No. 1 spot in the standings as the start of the Countdown to the Championship looms just weeks away.

Seven more races remain until the 10-driver fields are set for the six-race playoff. But Capps already is plotting his strategy, at least a simple one at this stage. If Hight's torrid early-season push planes out and Capps' star continues to rise, the Funny Car class could see a new leader long before the Western Swing.

In this productive weekend at Bristol, Capps said, "We made up a lot of points. It's not out of the question for u to catch Robert [leader Hight, from John Force Racing, whose four Funny Car all dropped out in the first round of eliminations Sunday].

"That's our carrot out in front of us, and we want those extra 20 points going into the Countdown," he said.

As the tour heads to Joliet, Ill., at the end of the month for the O'Reilly Route 66 Nationals, Capps is second in the standings to Hight, just 73 points off the pace.

Capps won with a 4.076-second pass at 312.35 mph as DeJoria lost traction in her Tequila Patron Toyota Camry and was a distant 5.232, 144.15 in her first pro-level final-round appearance.

He stopped short of making any predictions for himself.

"Every year I've had a car here at DSR, I felt like I've had a great shot," Capps said. "I don't even want to look out there [into the future]."

Right now, his present is satisfying enough.

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