Ron Capps and John Force shared a little more than NHRA history in Seattle on Sunday.
Editor’s note: This is the 16th in a series of exclusive Autoweek blogs by 2016 NHRA Funny Car champion Ron Capps. Capps continued his 2019 season this past weekend in the Magic Dry Organic Absorbent NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceway, near Seattle, where he qualified seventh before falling to John Force in the final. It was Force’s 150th career win. Capps moved up to fourth place in the Funny Car season standings heading to the Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd, Minnesota, Aug. 15-18.
Everyone in the NHRA has talked all year long about John Force’s 150th win, so it’s been hanging over everybody’s head.
It’s been looming over every race this year. Is he going to get it?! Everybody has had their signs ready. It’s awesome that he finally got it, and it’s a little embarrassing at the same time that this guy got 150 wins against the rest of us Funny Car guys and girls.
Luckily, we’ve beaten him a few times this year and were able to say, “Put that stuff away. It’s not going to happen today.” Unfortunately, I guess, we were on the other side of it on Sunday in Seattle. Fortunately, we were the ones there in the final when it happened. It was a big-time battle, and the fans loved it. It was him and I coming down to the final fun.
What a moment — aside from him grabbing me by the ears and kissing me on the lips! He dropped like 12 F-bombs on the Fox network national broadcast, grabbed me, planted one on me and then ran — well, more like hobbled — to the fence and jumped into the grandstands with the fans. I have compared him to Elvis and Richard Petty — now I’m not so sure. It was a weird moment. But that’s John Force. That’s why we love him.
It’s funny. Going all the way back to my rookie year, I’m on a lot of the highlight reels of his record-breaking career. So many of his milestones, which I guess is cool looking back, we’re in the lane next to him.
I’m second on the all-time Funny Car wins list with 62. He has 150 — more than twice as many! That’s how dominant he was. He’s the reason I went to race Funny Cars for Don Prudhomme back in ’97. Nobody could beat Force, and we wanted to take that challenge. I switched from dragster to Funny Car because he was the guy. Everybody took shots, but nobody could beat him. We wanted to see if we were good enough to do it.
John Force celebrated his 150th win — and the NHRA finally got to use the signs it’s been sending to all the events this season.
I tell people all the time. I will never, ever be the winningest Funny Car driver. I don’t care how long I drive. It’s almost like sometimes I wonder if I should have just gone back to dragsters because I’m in a class now where I’ll never be the winningest driver, nor will anyone else not named John Force. But that’s part of the allure of what he has done.
He’s one of the reasons we have a Countdown playoffs. When I was a rookie coming into Funny Car, there were times when he was clinching championships when there were still two and a half, three months left in the season. I think that started the NHRA thinking that they had to do something so that he doesn’t make the championship boring.
John Force came from nothing, put together a heckuva team through the ’90s when he won a bunch of races and championships. And yet you hear people get down on him now and have even questioned his driving over the past year or so. I’ve always been quick to jump in and say, “Watch out. Don’t count him out.” He finds a way to beat you, and he did it again.
Going into the final round, I was getting my firesuit on, and my crew chief Rahn Tobler said that the plan was to repeat what we did in the semifinals, maybe turn it up a notch. Then he said, “You know what you’re up against.” I said, “Yep, been racing him for 25 years.”
In the final, I got a little bit of a jump on him. I beat him on reaction time a tiny bit, but then about half-track, his car popped out around me, and I watched the rear of his car go through the finish line. To be honest, I’m kind of glad it’s over so we don’t have to hear about it anymore.
It was another one of those magical John Force moments.
Ron Capps, 54, drives the NAPA Brakes Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car for Don Schumacher Racing. He has 63 career NHRA victories, including 62 in the Funny Car class.
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