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Father’s Day away from Thunder Valley strange for Funny Car's Capps

Jeff Birchfield • Jun 20, 2020 at 6:15 PM

Ron Capps is in a familiar, yet unfamiliar, place for Father’s Day weekend.

The Funny Car driver isn’t at Bristol Dragway, where he holds the record as a five-time winner in the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, for the first time in 20 years, Capps is celebrating the holiday at home in California.

“Before we raced at Bristol, we raced at the Spring Nationals in Columbus (Ohio),” he said. “Since 1995, I’ve never been home on Father’s Day weekend. My birthday is June 20 and I was actually born on Father’s Day. Once in a while, those dates coincide.

“One of my last Bristol wins was on that date. It’s always fun to come home from Bristol with a Wally (trophy) and celebrate a belated Father’s Day when they pick me up at the airport.”

Capps, who turned 55 Saturday, isn’t complaining about the situation. While he’s eager to get back to work behind the wheel of his 11,000-horsepower, fire-breathing rocket, the extended layoff from racing has given him a chance to catch up on family time.

He’s been watching movies and television, playing board games with family and competing in iRacing events.

“It’s the most time I’ve got to spend with family. Instead of college, my daughter has been staying at home,” Capps said. “This whole pandemic, there has been a lot of catching up, a lot of time with family, but it’s going to be strange Sunday morning not being in Bristol trying to get ready for the race.”

Capps, the 2016 NHRA Funny Car champion, has 64 national-event wins counting his career in Nitro Top Fuel cars. In 2019, he had the second-fastest pass in NHRA history at 339.28 mph and was in the top 10 of the points standings for a 15th consecutive year.

He started the 2020 season at the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California, but was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman.

Capps reached the semifinals at Phoenix, losing to another DSR teammate, Tommy Johnson Jr., before the season was halted because of the pandemic. Plans are for the season to resume July 11-12 in Indianapolis.

This week has given Capps time to reflect. He tells the story of being at his first race before being born — he was in mom Betty’s belly — as his father, John, raced. That made Ron Capps’ win in 2017 extra special: The winner’s trophy was the perfect Father’s Day present.

“I took the Wally home and gave it to my dad,” he said. “My dad took it with him when he went to hang out with his friends. It took its own sort of jaunt on Facebook because I posted everything my dad had done.

“He has a bunch of old racing buddies from back in the day and guys he goes to lunch with certain days of the week. He took that Wally all over the place for two weeks after that race.”

As for his 2020 trip to Bristol, Capps believes visiting Thunder Valley in October could offer its own special set of circumstances. Cooler weather often produces fast times.

“That track at times has gotten some flack for the times we’ve run there with the humidity we see this time of year,” Capps said. “It’s hard to get the 11,000- horsepower cars planted to the ground.

“For sure, I see some track records being set and maybe even a world record fall when we go back there. I think it will be great for the fans for that time of year.”

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