Ron Capps is an NHRA drag-racing Funny Car star who drives for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR). But the glory didnât come easy for him. It wasnât until 2016, after two decades of racing, that he became National Champion. We sat down with Capps recently to get some perspective on his sport and what he does. Following are edited excerpts from a longer conversation.
Jim Clash: Did being a father make you think any differently in the car?
Ron Capps: Iâve been driving 21 years and I donât think Iâve ever been asked that. Good question. Iâm sure it did. The close calls. If you google my name, youâll see how bad and dangerous these cars can be â the wrecks, the fires, the blowups. Once I had kids, afterÂ I got out of the car and checked my limbs to see if my fingers and toes were still there, the first thing on my mind was my kids and family. And it never used to be. So yeah, I guess it did change me a little bit.
Clash: You had been runner-up so many times to winning the Funny Car National Championship. In 2016, when you did win it, what was the feeling?
Capps: I drove 10 years for one of my heroes, Don âThe Snakeâ Prudhomme. As a kid, I played with his hot wheels and built his models. I came so close and never got to win the National Championship with him or for him. Fast forward to 2016, and Iâm driving my NAPA Auto Parts car for theÂ legend, Don Schumacher, another hero of mine. We clinched in Pomona on a Saturday night. After the final qualifying run in the shutdown area with the chutes out, they came over the radio and said that mathematically I had clinched. I couldnât compose myself. It wasnât elation. Relief was the biggest thing. It was, âOh finally.â
Clash: How did it change your life?
Capps: Being called âchampâ is pretty cool! I was walking in here a minute ago and somebody said, âHey champ.â I was always used to calling John Force champ. I had raced him all those years, and heâd won all those championships. Heâs why I went from Top-Fuel Dragsters to Funny Cars in the first place. I wanted to beat the best. So beating John, being called champ, the ring â I donât wear it very often but my wife makes me wear it on special occasions [laughs]. Other than that, I donât think things have changed that much.
Clash: Compare and contrast driving a Funny Car to a Top Fuel Dragster. You have done both.
Capps: I have to be careful because my teammates drive Dragsters [laughs]. We used to joke that Dragsters are like a donkey ride on a trail, and a Funny Car is like riding a bull. A dragster is very predictable. You donât steer it much. You are out in front of the engine. Now in a Funny Car when you step on the gas â itâs so short-wheel-based and stiff, the most evil handling thing â you donât know what itâs going to do. Iâve made a lot of runs â not as many as John Force â but he will tell you the same thing: A Funny Car is the most unpredictable racecar. Iâve gotten to drive World Outlaw sprint cars, dirt cars, karts, formula cars. But a Funny Car can go left, right â it can go a second and a half and blow up and catch fire. You are sitting a foot and a half behind the engine, so if itâs on fire, youâre on fire. In a Dragster youâre moving the steering when very little, in a Funny Car it can be a wild, gyrating motion. Just look at some of the in-car videos Iâve posted on my social media. Completely different cars. You donât finesse a Funny Car.
Clash: Whatâs it like to go from 0 – more than 300 mph in less than four seconds, then have to slow down so quickly? The pressures to perform must be enormous.
Capps: I tell people that we donât get to enjoy these runs. Itâs 3.8 seconds of madness. Thereâs so much going on. Like I said before, Funny Cars are unpredictable. You are fighting for your life to keep the thing straight. Youâve got 10 crewmembers, the owner, sponsors. There could be a CEO standing back there. Everythingâs been given to you, worked on for hours. Then they say, âHere ya go, donât mess it up.â When the chutes come out and you come to an idle, you say, âThat was cool.â But during the run, itâs controlled chaos. I really wish I could take your readers for a ride. Most people would probably need a diaper, honestly [laughs].