Ron Capps will slow down to race back in time this weekend. He is in Bakersfield to participate in the 55th annual March Meet, March 7-10, at fabled Auto Club Famoso Raceway. The first March Meet was held in 1961.
The Funny Car points leader and driver of Don Schumacher Racing’s NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T is using a weekend off from the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series to race in the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Racing Series that features nostalgic, quarter-mile drag racing led by classic Funny Cars and front-engine Top Fuel dragsters.
“The March Meet is really prestigious,” Capps said. “It’s an event when I was growing up on the Central Coast of California that I went to Famoso every year with my dad to race or just to spectate. That’s where I got to stand for the first time next to legends like Don Garlits, James Warren ... those guys were my heroes as a kid, and I had their pictures on my wall.”
Capps will drive Steve Plueger’s L.A. Hooker Plymouth Arrow nostalgia Funny Car that was made famous by the late driver Dave Condit. Capps drove the car in 2010 at the March Meet and completed a quarter-mile run in 5.703 seconds, which remains the NHRA nostalgia record.
“Just to be able to do a half-track burnout in a Funny Car that looks like it’s from the 1970s is cool,” Capps said. “These cars look just like they did when I was a kid standing at the fence. It’s incredible how many fans show up, and it’s incredible just to drive one of them.”
Although the cars are about 60 mph slower than the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge in which he won the Phoenix event title in the Mello Yello Series two weeks ago, his L.A. Hooker is challenging.
“These nostalgia cars don’t have the downforce compared to what we drive now, and you have to shift. On the L.A. Hooker, we have a lever you have to pull to shift instead of the air-activated buttons on some other cars.
”You have to really listen to the car on each run, and there’s nothing to tell you when to shift. It’s a real throwback to when the driver was more important. When we get back to the pit area, my job’s not done because I have to tell Steve what the run felt like. Computers are legal, but we’re old-school. It’s all-around going back in time.”
Nearly 40 Funny Cars are expected to compete for the 16-car championship eliminations. Qualifying is set for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, with eliminations scheduled to begin Saturday and continue on Sunday. For information, log on to FamosoRaceway.com or NHRAHotRodHeritage.com.
Soon after Capps enjoys his visit to the past, he’ll begin preparing for a cross-country jaunt to Florida for the March 14-17 Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, where he has won twice (2006, 2007) in the Mello Yello Series.