Popular Funny Car driver Ron Capps ended a one-year winless streak Sunday with his victory at the 23rd annual FRAM-Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway. The other winners at the 15th race in the 23-race NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season were Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) and Michael Phillips (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
The owner of the NAPA Dodge Charger team, Don Schumacher, switched crew chiefs – bringing in John Medlen to replace Ed “Ace” McCulloch – in June and in the three races since the move Capps reached the quarterfinals in Norwalk, the final round in Seattle, and the Winner's Circle in Sonoma.
“It's all confidence and confidence is built on success,” said Capps (4.169, 296.44), who defeated teammate Jack Beckman (4.210, 298.93) and the Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger team in the final round for his first win since the Mopar Mile-High Nationals in July 2009. “It's really a pleasure working with (John Medlen). His approach to racing is let's have fun. Let's win, but let's have fun, too. I can't even tell you how exciting that is for me.”
The win was the 31st for Capps, who moved up from seventh to fifth place in the Funny Car standings and clinched a berth in the Countdown to 1 NHRA Playoffs. Also clinching berths in Funny Car were Matt Hagan, Beckman and Tim Wilkerson.
In Top Fuel, Dixon (3.879, 317.12) and the Al-Anabi team defeated arch-rival Tony Schumacher (4.006, 300.73) and the U.S. Army team to remain perfect in final rounds this season, winning for the eighth time in eight trips there including twice against Schumacher.
“You know when you're racing Tony, he's won a lot of races and the last six championships so you know he's going to keep you honest,” Dixon said. “You've got to go up there and fire your best shot and hope it's enough. I enjoy racing him. When you (beat the U.S. Army team), there's no blower belt coming off, you know he's going to make you earn it so when you do win it makes it that much more gratifying.”
The win capped off a weekend sweep for Dixon, who qualified No. 1 and was competing in his 100th career final round.
“The car was flawless, unbelievable job by Alan Johnson just pulling everyone on the team. You see those numbers, running 84 a couple of times, to me that humbling. They were on their game. They weren't leaving anything in their back pocket,” Dixon said.
In Pro Stock, Coughlin delivered a stout 6.590 at 209.52 in the JEGS.com Chevy Cobalt to defeat Jason Line (6.502, 209.39) in his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP. Like Dixon, Coughlin was also in his 100th career NHRA Full Throttle Series final round and the win was his 51st, one shy of Joe Amato for eighth place on the all-time NHRA Full Throttle Series wins list.
“It was a good race car and that's exactly what you need in Pro Stock when you're separated by literally 10-thousandths of a second. There is no room for error,” Coughlin said.
Coughlin also defeated the other half of the Summit team, Greg Anderson, who had won the previous two races, in the second round.
“They are multi-time world champions so any time you get by them it's awesome, to get by both of them in the same day, that's a tough feat,” Coughlin said.
Line did clinch a berth in the Countdown to 1.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Phillips set a national record for speed aboard the Racers Edge Suzuki with his 6.886-second pass at 196.76mph in the final round and he needed every bit of the power to defeat Andrew Hines' 6.909 at 194.16.
“We've been playing with different carburetors and that's where we picked up. We've been running crazy mile-per-hour,” Phillips said.
Phillips, Matt Smith and Andrew Hines all clinched berths in the Countdown to 1.
None of the three winners from Seattle repeated so there will be no chance for a sweep of the Western Swing, which will conclude next weekend, July 23-25, with the 31st running of the Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway outside Denver.