Well... it seems so long ago we chatted on here, yet it seems like just yesterday that we were gearing up for the Western Swing and now all of the sudden here we are two races into our 2014 Countdown to the Championship.
We left Dallas, and after we had our postponement in Charlotte on Sunday, we ended up running the remainder of the zMAX race in Dallas during qualifying on Saturday, and then here we are in St Louis for round #3 of our playoffs. We ended up going into the Countdown as the 3rd seed after winning the Epping race and then Brainerd again this year, and actually that is the 3rd year in a row that we have won the Brainerd race... hmmm... that is a lot of 3s.
The kids enjoying another moment of Dad asking them to sit still and look like they're having fun.
Anyway, again I am trying to backlog through my Twitter and Facebook stuff to remind me of what has been happening since then, and it reminds me how cool it really is to sort of have your life or career documented by what is on the ESPN shows and then of course all of the social media with Instagram pictures, the videos that I have put up on “Vine,” and then of course Facebook and Twitter that we find ourselves trying to let the fans into our lives on and, more important, off the track.
We did our usual RV trip once again this year back up towards where I grew up in San Luis Obispo and spent a week at two of our favorite places up there, Pismo Coast Park that is located right in the beach in Pismo Beach — yeah the same Pismo Beach from Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck cartoon fame— then a week up with our friends at the Paso Robles RV park called Wine Country’s RV.... Too much fun and not enough time, but a little is better than none at all I suppose, and I cherish the time I get with the family, especially with Taylor and Caden growing so fast.
Speaking of the Brainerd win, we had to wait until the Indy race to beat Force for the Brainerd Wally, and with that I decided that Wally deserved to be enjoyed by the fans back in Minnesota. So we sent him on a journey, and as we speak our Brainerd Wally is spending his days going from NAPA store to NAPA store in Minnesota, and you fans can follow him on my Facebook fan page as well as the special Facebook page called “Ron’s traveling Wally” (https://www.facebook.com/RonsTravellingWally), and he will eventually end up back up at the Brainerd track, where the owners are currently thinking of a final resting place for him for all of our fans to see him next year .
We stubbed our toe a little last weekend in Dallas after having a great race car in qualifying, and we lost a close race with Wilkerson when we dropped cylinder a couple of seconds into the run, which is what these Nitro engines do sometimes for no reason. We dropped a couple of positions in the points but plan on climbing right back up the ladder starting with this weekend’s race at Gateway Motorsports Park in St. Louis.
I have to run, but I will try to stay up on my blog a little more often than I have lately, and if you’re in Hawaii, keep an eye on my posts as I will be hitting Honolulu on Friday, Oct. 17 for some appearances and Maui on Saturday, Oct. 18 as well as stopping by the dragstrip there that night once again, and then Kauai on Sunday the 19th of October for a few appearances on each island, so if you live there or are visiting come hang bruddah! Have to run, time to qualify here in St. Louis! Talk to you soon.
In Pomona. I think I dropped my keys here somewhere....
Well.... here we are a handful of races into the 2014 season already and things are going full speed all around us!
Last time we chatted I had just came back from representing the stars and stripes and NHRA in Sydney, Australia against some great racers in a new class Graham Cowin started that they call Aeroflow Outlaw Funny Cars (which is much like the NHRA Heritage Series Nostalgia Funny Cars) and it was a great time, especially seeing the huge NHRA following we have over there.
We came back from that trip and then went on our 8th annual "Cruisin with Capps" fan cruise for 7 days and then we were home through the holidays and had family come visit, which was really nice, especially with the kids as they are growing too fast for me to keep up.
We are doing those events again later this year. The Sydney trip will be just after our Pomona race again and our 9th annual fan cruise this year departs from sunny California in early December and will be a 7 day cruise down the coast to some great stops. Come join the fun if you dare, haha.
It's funny, my buddy Force used to repeat to me over and over about really trying to relish the time when the kids were younger with the travel and sponsor commitments that we have. He was so, SO right… again, it is strange to sit down and write a blog to sort of catch up everyone on what is going on with our NAPA team when I am constantly putting the minute by minute, day to day stuff out on our Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook constantly.
As far as our on-track news for our NAPA team, Rahn Tobler and our crew spent the winter getting some pretty cool in-house DSR parts ready for us to try and implement into our race car early in our season. I know that I haven't mentioned it very often, but the benefit of not just a multi-car team, but a multicast team with some of the most talented people in all positions is that when one of our teams is in need of a little help, there is plenty of help there in a split second.
This season was a great example of that with our Funny Car team with Tommy Johnson Jr. driving. Don Schumacher had asked that Tobler and his long time protégé John Collins help set that car up with a baseline tune-up like what we had run last season and so at the Pomona and Phoenix races Rahn and JC were making tune up decisions on our NAPA car, but also helping our teammates get that car up to speed.
It wasn't until Gainesville that Don made the decision to move our long time asst. crew chief JC over to TJ’s team as full time crew chief and allowed Tobler to bring a new assistant crew chief in Eric Lane to our team as his right hand guy and it showed right away as both our team and TJ's team qualified and had a good weekend.
One of our favorite races was next in Vegas, it has sort of turned into a home track (imagine that) with all of our friends and family that make it a destination event. Our team then followed up our Gatornationals with a great qualifying position in Vegas and made it to semifinals (two races in a row) and moved our NAPA team up from 9th to 4th in the points.
We had gone to our preseason test in Florida with the new clutch program that we ended last season with, something that Rahn felt very good about after testing. We felt like the progress we could make could make our car quicker, but also make it easier for our other DSR crew chiefs to make the switch with the data we would already have.
Well… while it may be something that we might put back in the bell housing later, it just wasn't showing Rahn that the different pressure plate configuration was consistent enough for him to have the confidence going to the starting line and making tune-up call in different track conditions.
When I first started driving for Tobler and this great group of talented crew members, consistency could have been his name on his NHRA hard card. Our team had made right around 50 consecutive runs without tire smoke… crazy, right? I think we went to 6 straight final rounds they said… crazy again, right? Talk about having a dream race car to drive… Well, the good news for our NAPA Auto Parts fans is that Tobler and our team have gone back to that clutch, same pressure plate (hat it is called sometimes) and flywheel, disc and floater combination that we had run before with all those races we won the last two years.
We also stayed in Vegas and he was able to run some other new DSR parts on the car, some new superchargers that our team had rebuilt and improved, put on our blower dyno back at the shop but not yet ran to find out how good and/or consistent they were.
Our test was probably the happiest I have seen Tobler on a Monday at a track looking at a RacePak graph on the computer. The car picked up in spots where he was looking to have it get quicker and the motor looked very happy, which puts a smile on my face for sure as a driver and team member.
You have to remember that all of this was done by our NAPA team of guys that never fail to blow me away when curveballs and more hard work is thrown at them... on top of the normal travel, hard work and mostly non-glamorous life a NHRA crew member lives.
So there you have it, I am on a plane (I know, hard to believe) and headed to a small town in Ohio for appearance for NAPA and then on to Charlotte for our annual 4-Wide race this weekend. We are saving a spot for the next Wally to arrive and hopefully it says zMAX on it.
We got to spend last Friday night watching my new NAPA team mate Chase Elliott and his Dale Jr. team get his first win in Nationwide and trust me, there will be many more to come from him.
I am so pumped about him joining our NAPA team. I have a great story about his dad Bill Elliott; I will save it for another time though. We have had a lot of fans asking about new NAPA TV commercials, and I can't wait to see what ideas they come up with for this year with Chase and I and our NAPAKnowHow.
Have to run, plane is about to touch down. Talk to you soon!
You know... I thought time flew by at a fast pace during our NHRA season? But it is really flying by in the off season as well. The last few weeks of our season always seem to go by so fast with all the pressure of the "Countdown to the Championship" and on top of that the fact that we have those races crammed together at the end of the season makes the time really fly by it seems.
Well, this year seemed like it was even more so with all the excitement with our NAPA team in a fight for a Championship once again and of course if you follow my Twitter @NAPARonCapps, Facebook and Instagram, you know that I keep plenty busy spreading the NAPAKnowHow all over.
We had our usual trip planned right after the season finale in Pomona to Hawaii for some NAPA appearances on a couple different islands, but this year we also had a trip planned that was put together by legendary Drag Racer Graeme Cowin in Sydney, Australia. It was a big event with several appearances followed up by a great event at the Sydney Drag Strip, which is a world class race track.
It was a smashing success as I was the lone representative in the USA vs. Australia/New Zealand and we made some great side by side 5.80 second runs at 240 mph and put on a great show for the fans at the Sydney Drag Strip. The nitro drag racing in Australia is very different nowadays it seems. There really isn't any Nitro Funny Car racing, and as far as the Top Fuel division there is only a handful of Top Fuel dragsters that run with the performance of our NHRA teams here in the states on a consistent basis. As we found out in the NHRA, if you don't have good side-by-side racing, the fans are going to lose interest.
I was blown away by the amount of NHRA fans there in Australia that pay very close attention to our sport here and was in shock at the amount of race fans that were lined up waiting for pictures and autographs when I arrived at the track the first day, and I haven't felt so proud to be there representing our great team owner Don Schumacher and all of his sponsors at DSR.
I also got to meet some new people with the auto parts company called REPCO that is a partner of NAPA. From what I saw, REPCO has the same great reputation for auto parts "down under" that NAPA has here in the United States.
It was a great trip and my wife Shelley and daughter Taylor got to join me on the trip. They made their first trip down a drag strip in a very cool three-seat dragster driven by Graham Elliott. They are still talking about it! We are already talking about expanding the event next year and we can't wait.
We got back home for a few days and then I got to fly out to Indianapolis to DSR headquarters for our annual photo shoot for the new 2014 NAPA Auto Parts Funny Car and while the racecar will look close to the 2013 NAPA scheme, there are some small, but very cool changes as you will see.
We are headed out on the 9th annual "Cruisin with Capps" fan cruise and we are so blessed to have the fans that we have in our sport, but even more proud to have our NAPA racing fans that feel the same passion and excitement that we have ourselves.
We are also getting the house ready for all the relatives that will come for Christmas and I am looking forward to spending New Years at home and really just having a little down time with family and close friends and then before you know it we will be in West Palm Beach for our pre-season testing and I know that Don Schumacher, Rahn Tobler and our NAPA team can't wait to get our racecar back up to the front where it belongs.
See you soon!
Celebrating 400 with my DSR teammates... although not sure if Tony missed that day at school
This is what we have worked all season long for. Scratch that... this is what we have worked our whole lives for. A chance to win a championship only comes to those who work hard at it and those who deserve it, and I can't think of any other team other than my NAPA Auto Parts team that deserves it more. They are a team who has worked hard, very hard, at having the chance to win an NHRA championship, and hopefully when we get to Pomona in November, we will be fighting for it once again.
We are in Charlotte for the kickoff to our playoffs, or as it is called, the Countdown to the Championship, and this weekend is the start of a six-race playoff for all the marbles, and to make it more exciting we will have to the first four races all in consecutive weekends before getting a chance to catch our breath for a couple of weeks, and then it will be stops in Vegas and then our final race in Pomona.
We are coming into this weekend as defending champs of this race from last year, and on top of that, we have our sponsor and best tools in the world sponsoring the race this weekend as it will be called the Carlyle Tools Carolina Nationals brought to you by NAPA! What a chance for us to help spread the word about Carlyle Tools with our special paint scheme, but a chance to get off on the right foot in the Countdown.
We have had a very exciting summer on and off the race track as we planned our family summer trip right after our Norwalk race with a trip up in the RV to the Central Coast of California to Lake Nacimiento for a week and then drove it down to Pismo Beach for another week before heading up to Paso Robles for a few days, then hopping in it and traveling together up to the Sonoma racetrack for the race. I absolutely cherish this time every year with our family and can't wait for it every year.
We also got to finally see the "Snake and Mongoose" movie that I was so lucky to be a part of and I got to take my family to the red carpet premiere in Hollywood. On the track, our NAPA team made it to the winner's circle in Sonoma where I consider my home track and certainly had the family and friends there to prove it. Then we did it again in Brainerd as we made it back-to-back wins in Brainerd (2012 & 2013) and survived another jaunt in the famous "Zoo" that the fans (and racers) SO love and look forward to every year.
We had a so-so weekend in Indy but came up short of winning the U.S. Nationals, but our goal of being ready for a run at the championship I think has been accomplished by our crew chief, Rahn Tobler, and our NAPA team, and believe me, our fans and sponsors deserve it as well.
Like I always say, if you don't have Twitter... get it. I don't get anything for sharing that advice other than you can follow your favorite driver (whether I am your favorite or not), and you get to follow, see pictures like our Throwback Thursday pictures, and get a feel for what we have happening on a day to day, even hour to hour basis... and it is free and fun. Check me out at @NAPARonCapps.
Talk to you soon!