For the last few races, the buildup to one of the more significant milestones in NHRA history has been who would win the 100th national event by a female driver?
Now that Funny Car driver Courtney Force earned that distinction this past Sunday at Topeka, Kansas, another milestone could be on tap in this weekend’s 45th annual Toyota NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J.
You might say Funny Car driver Ron Capps is on a mission at the fabled Englishtown track. It was there two years ago that Capps recorded the fastest elapsed time in a Funny Car in NHRA history: 3.964 seconds.
But if Capps – a previous Funny Car winner at Englishtown in 2006 – has his way, he’s going to lay down an even quicker time than that this weekend.
And this time, he wants it to become the NHRA elapsed time record (his 2012 mark, while it remains the quickest in the sport’s annals, was not “backed up” in succeeding runs that weekend, thus denying Capps of the national record.
“It was fitting that it happened at such a historic racetrack, and I’ve got a lot of other great memories there,” Capps said in an NHRA media release. “To win there, you have to have a great crew chief and a great team.
“Obviously, the driver has to be on his game to leave on time and keep the car in the middle of the track. That place can go from the most extreme record-setting conditions, like we saw on that 3.96, to hot and humid and tricky.”
In a way, Capps has some unfinished business to take care of this weekend.
“That 3.96 is going to get broken this year, and it could be us on Friday night if the conditions are right and we’re at the back of the pack on the second qualifying session,” Capps said. “(But Englishtown is) a track that’s very, very unforgiving for a crew chief that doesn’t have his act together.”
Capps doesn’t have to worry about that. Rahn Tobler was his crew chief in 2012 and remains in that same position today. If anyone can send Capps down the 1,000-foot dragstrip and break that elapsed time mark, it’s Tobler.
Although he hasn’t won a race yet in 2014, Capps has unquestionably been knocking on the door, having reached the semifinals in five of the last six races, including last weekend at Topeka.
“It’s funny because even before our string of semifinal finishes, Rahn Tobler had been playing around a little with the tune-up,” Capps said. “A great part of having him as our crew chief and our crew being together for several years is that we don’t veer too far away from having a really good car.
“We can try to be the best in qualifying, but we usually have a good car for Sunday when he can make great decisions.”
This weekend’s event brings to an end a run of three consecutive weekends of racing for the NHRA pros. But after next weekend off, they’ll have four straight races to contend with.
That’s why Capps wants to go into the upcoming off-weekend with momentum from a win and a potential record.
“I love it because it’s a chance for a team like mine to make a run in the points,” Capps said. “I don’t think many teams can keep their heads above water like ours can.
“It’s our time to keep our noses down and make a move in the standings. We have a week off after Englishtown, and then it’s four in a row, and we can move up to second or third. It can be a great time for our team.”
Qualifying begins Friday with sessions at 4 and 6:15 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions are Saturday at 12:45 and 3:15 p.m. Final eliminations begin Sunday at 11 a.m.
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