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Local Sports

NHRA Route 66 Nationals: Capps enjoying special year in Funny Cars

NHRA Funny Car driver Ron Capps has won four races and owns a 130-point lead in his division heading into the Route 66 NHRA Nationals.
NHRA Funny Car driver Ron Capps has won four races and owns a 130-point lead in his division heading into the Route 66 NHRA Nationals.

As the NHRA continues its 50th anniversary celebration of the Funny Car at this weekend’s K&N Filters Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway, Ron Capps can proudly claim he has been an integral part of that division’s history during the past 20 years.

After getting his start in the division under Hall of Fame driver and owner Don ‘The Snake’ Prudhomme, who will be honored this weekend, Capps ranks second in wins (48) and finals appearances (93) behind another legend, John Force, the sport’s all-time leader in wins (143), finals (242) and world titles (16).

And although he often has been in the hunt for the championship, he’s settled for second four times, in 1998, 2000, 2005 and 2012, including twice by less than 10 points to teammates Gary Scelzi and Jack Beckman.

Although only halfway through the 24-event Mello Yello Series schedule, Capps is enjoying a banner year for Don Schumacher Racing. He won the opening race at Pomona and then took second to place Robert Hight at Gainesville.

But he really has picked things up in the past four races, beating Tommy Johnson Jr. at Epping, New Hampshire and Beckman at Englishtown before defeating Courtney Force in the last race at Norwalk, Ohio. Those recent efforts have helped Capps claim a 966-836 lead for first place over Courtney Force, who claimed her lone win over Tim Wilkerson at Houston. Beckman ranks third with 823 points, thanks to second-place showings at Atlanta, Topeka, Kansas and Englishtown.

Defending world champion Del Worsham, who last year became only the the third NHRA driver to win Top Fuel and Funny Car titles, ranks fourth with 762 points after finishing in second place to Capps in the opener and to Alexis De Joria at Las Vegas. He has won four times at Joliet, taking titles in Funny Car in 2001, 2002 and 2004 and in Top Fuel in 2011.

“Route 66 Raceway is a great place to race these nitro-burning machines,” Worsham said. “Friday’s sessions promise to be fast, with new track records likely. It is not far from the Kalitta Motorsports home base, so to be able to race close at such a great track is very cool. The team has been making gains on my DHL Toyota Camry, and I am excited to see all the Route 66 fans this weekend.”

Tommy Johnson Jr., last year’s Joliet champion, is fifth with 750 points while two-time world champion Matt Hagan is right behind with 747 points. Johnson defeated Hagan in the Bristol finals and fell to Capps at Epping while Hagan won back-to-back titles over Beckman at Atlanta and Topeka.

Wilkerson, a Springfield native, is the only other driver with two wins this season. He beat John Force at Phoenix and Cruz Pedregon at Charlotte, North Carolina. Wilkerson leads Hight, 723-722, for seventh place, while John Force (668) and De Joria (640) round out Funny Car’s top-10.

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