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For Capps, big changes, big results

Ron Capps sometimes thinks too much. He knows he does it.

But the National Hot Rod Association Funny Car driver couldn't help it after failing to qualify at Las Vegas. He lost his crew chief in the fallout of it, saw his longtime crew slide over to Jack Beckman's side of the Don Schumacher Racing pits, started working with tuner Rahn Tobler and his assistant John Collins for the first time, had to get used to a new crew (some of whom he can't address yet by name), and drove a different Dodge Charger.

"As a driver, you start to wonder what's going to happen at half-track: Did I forget what to do where?" he said Friday at zMAX Dragway at Concord, N.C.

Capps definitely has been out of his top-performing groove, inconsistent for longer than he cares to remember. (His most recent victory was at Sonoma, Calif., last August.) But he definitely didn’t forget what to do where Friday.

The NAPA Auto Parts Charger driver leads the field overnight, with another two sessions of qualifying set for Saturday, for the Four-Wide Nationals.

"It was confidence booster for me," he said. "Our run was pretty cool."

As for Tobler, Capps said, "I already knew his credentials. People forget he almost won the [Top Fuel] championship with Doug Kalitta when Tony [Schumacher] made his 'Run.' Then he went over to Cruz's [Cruz Pedregon's team] and won a championship in Funny Car. And he took Jack Beckman to the end at Pomona there last year.

"He kept reassuring me today that we're going to have fun," Capps said. "You can't let that get away from you in this sport. We get all uptight and we start to stress and forget that we have one of the best jobs in the world."

Just the same, he said, he said he breathed a sigh of relief Friday that he got down the 1,000-foot course. To do it with a 4.105-second pass at 301.81 mph that topped provisional No. 2 Beckman' 4.113-second elapsed time was simply gravy.

Capps also didn't lose any confidence. He said being at the top of the 16-car order feels "appropriate."

And he didn't think too much before he said it.