Ron Capps turned out to be the force in the finals of the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals Sunday at Brainerd International Raceway.
Capps capped off a successful weekend as he beat track favorite John Force for the Funny Car title with a pass at 4.134 and 304.05 mph. Force, bidding for an incredible 12th win at BIR, went 6.633 at 116.35 mph as he smoked his tires early and often.
Entering the weekend second in season points, Capps heads to Indianapolis with the points lead. Force entered the weekend ninth in points.
“Force is cagey, he’s good here,” Capps said. “He could be having the worst year ever and he still could come here and win, he has that good feeling here.
“I was doubtful we were going to get a win. He was on a roll. You put a guy in that situation like John Force and he knows how to take it to the next level.
“I looked for him at about 800 feet but he wasn’t next to me, and we got the win light.”
Force gave Capps his start in drag racing. He helped Capps learn how to drive a Top Fuel car and Capps still considers Force his mentor.
“He took me under his wing,” Capps said. “I was going to be the driver of his first-team car, but it didn’t work out. I still consider him to be one of my best friends out here. I used to get calls from him at 2 in the morning. Now that he’s calmed down I get his calls at 9 at night.
“If there’s a driver out here ... just because John’s been in an accident, and he’s got some age on him, that they will have an advantage at the starting line, they’ve got a lot coming to them. He’s as good as anybody out here, if not better. He’s sharp. He can pull every trick in the book.”
On his way to the finals, Capps defeated Courtney Force in the opening round and Dodge Charger teammates Johnny Gray in the quarterfinals and Matt Hagan in the semifinals.
Capps, the fifth seed, zipped to his third win of the season, his third at BIR, and the 36th win of his career.
In the quarterfinals, sixth-seeded John Force stunned the crowd when he fouled (red-lighted) at the start against 11th-seeded Alexis DeJoria. Force, however, received a gift pass to the quarterfinals when DeJoria was disqualified.
About halfway down the drag strip, DeJoria nearly lost control of her car and was nearly sideways when her back tire touched the center line, signifying instant disqualification. That sent Force to the quarterfinals where he upset No. 3 Cruz Pedregon and to the semis where he eliminated No. 2 Tim Wilkerson. Also in the quarterfinals, No. 16 Hagan eliminated top-seeded Jack Beckman.