(Photos courtesy NHRA)

2016 NHRA season in review: Funny Car champion Ron Capps

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Over the next three-plus weeks, MotorSportsTalk will feature season-ending reviews of the top drivers of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

Each day, we’ll have one in-depth review of a driver that finished in the top-five in each of the four professional classes (Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle), as well as a compendium of select other drivers that did not finish in the top-five.

We began the series Monday with Antron Brown. Today, we feature Ron Capps.

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2016_ron_cappsDriver: Ron Capps

Age: 51

Hometown: Carlsbad, Calif.

Team: Don Schumacher Racing

Sponsor/car: NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger

Crew chief: Rahn Tobler

2016 season finish: First in Funny Car.

2016 season statistics: 24 races, 5 wins, 5 runner-up, 7 semifinals, 5 quarterfinals. No. 1 qualifier four times. Round-by-round record: 54 wins, 18 losses. Crowned 2016 NHRA Funny Car champion.

Career statistics (includes both Funny Car and previously in Top Fuel): 483 races, 50 wins (49 Funny Car, 1 Top Fuel), 50 runner-up (49 FC, 1 TF), 89 semifinals, 98 quarterfinals. No. 1 qualifier 21 times. Round-by-round record: 626 wins, 414 losses. 19 DNQ. 2016 NHRA Funny Car champion.

What went right in 2016: Capps had the best season of his career, starting off with a win in the season-opening Winternationals. … After finishing runner-up four times (including losing the 2012 Funny Car title by a mere two points), the California native finally won it all. … Consistency was the biggest key for Capps, who reached the semifinals 17 times or better (and at least the quarterfinals in 22 of 24 races). … Clinched the championship in the season-ending race at his home track, Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif.

What went wrong in 2016: Lost amid all the hoopla of Capps’ championship was the fact he won the title despite failing to qualify for the spring race at Las Vegas. After that, he lost in the semifinals at Charlotte, quarterfinals at Houston and Atlanta, and lost in the first round at Topeka (the only time he lost in the first round this season). Things were looking bleak, but Capps rallied to win three of the next four to get him back on track. … After his last win of the season at Seattle, Capps’ consistency – reaching the semifinals five times and finals two other times – allowed him to stay ahead of his closest challengers and to win the title. He also suffered one of the scariest crashes of his career in the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, when he crashed into the end-of-track sandtrap and retaining fence, ending up trapped upside down for several minutes before being rescued unharmed.

What to look for in 2017: After a storybook season in 2016, Capps will attempt to go for two championships in a row. Can he do it? Most definitely. He has one of the best crew chiefs in the business in Rahn Tobler, drives for one of the best organizations (Don Schumacher Racing) and has everything he needs to win it all again.

Season reviews already posted:

— Antron Brown (12/12)

— Ron Capps (12/13)

— Jason Line (12/14)

Jerry Savoie (12/15)

Doug Kalitta (12/16)

Tommy Johnson Jr. (12/17)

Greg Anderson (12/18)

Eddie Krawiec (12/19)

Steve Torrence (12/20)

— Matt Hagan (12/21)

— Shane Gray (12/22)

— Andrew Hines (12/23)

— J.R. Todd (12/24)

— John Force (12/25)

— Bo Butner (12/26)

— Angelle Sampey (12/27)

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Robert Hight extends Funny Car victory streak to 13 seasons

Photo: Gary Nastase and Auto Imagery
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MORRISON, Colo. (AP) Robert Hight beat Tommy Johnson Jr. on Sunday in the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway to extend his Funny Car victory streak to 13 seasons.

Hight topped Johnson with a 3.995-second pass at 317.57 mph in a Chevrolet Camaro SS for his 38th career victory.

“We definitely struggled through the first few rounds and we were lucky to get those round wins, but I have a great team who figured things out and helped get me to the winner’s circle,” Hight said. “It’s definitely a long-time coming and we hadn’t had much luck, but today we had some luck and we hope this continues throughout the Western Swing.”

Antron Brown won in Top Fuel, Drew Skillman in Pro Stock, and Eddie Krawiec in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Brown edged teammate and No. 1 qualifier Leah Pritchett with a 3.792 at 319.82. He has three victories this season to push his career total to 64.

Skillman raced to his second straight victory and the fifth of his career, beating points leader Bo Butner with a 6.916 run at 198.15 in a Camaro.

Krawiec topped Matt Smith with a 7.145 at 188.28. The Harley-Davidson rider has two victories this season and 38 overall.

Sauber confirms Matsushita for Hungary test as well

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Honda junior driver Nobuhiro Matsushita will have a run with Sauber F1 Team on the second day of the Hungarian Grand Prix post-race week test, in the team’s C36 chassis.

Sauber’s engine selection for 2018 is up in the air. While the team announced a switch from year old Ferraris to Hondas, this was done under prior team principal Monisha Kaltenborn and rumors have persisted the deal may be off, or wasn’t fully done in the first place.

That Matsushita is running at this test for his first day in an F1 car – Gustav Malja will run on day one – could indicate the Honda switch isn’t yet a dead topic.

“When I was four years old, I was fascinated by Michael Schumacher, watching him racing in Formula 1. Since then my dream was to become a Formula 1 driver,” he said. “I am very excited about my first Formula 1 test and I am really looking forward to driving the Sauber C36-Ferrari at the Hungaroring – it is a great opportunity for me. I hope it will be a productive day for the team as well as for myself, so that I can learn as much as possible. I would like to thank the Sauber F1 Team for making this happen.”

New team boss Frederic Vasseur, formerly of Renault, gave his take on the test.

“I am pleased that Nobuharu has this great opportunity. He deserves the experience of his first test in a Formula 1 car. Ever since his debut in Formula 2 with ART Grand Prix, I have been following his progress closely, and have watched him advance his performance from year to year. With this Formula 1 test, he comes one step closer to his dream of becoming an F1 driver one day.”

Renault confirms Robert Kubica will test in Hungary

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Renault Sport F1 Team has confirmed Robert Kubica will make his return to a current Formula 1 car in the post-Hungarian Grand Prix test, which will only continue to fuel the hype train for a possible race return.

The Pole has undertaken two tests in recent weeks with older cars but this day in the Renault R.S.17 will provide the team a chance to evaluate him in current machinery to gauge his race level fitness.

It’s a story that has got the F1 world buzzing in recent weeks as Kubica, injured in a rally accident before the 2011 season, has made a comeback to restart his racing career.

Poor Nicholas Latifi, also confirmed for the test that runs the Tuesday and Wednesday after the Hungarian Grand Prix, will be undoubtedly overlooked as a result.

Jolyon Palmer will race in Hungary this weekend at least but whether the Brit continues beyond the summer break that follows afterwards remains a question mark.

Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean to launch cookbook

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Haas Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean may be one of the sport’s most promising talents on-track, but he also has a burning passion off it: cooking.

Grosjean may have been spent a good part of this year cooking his brakes, but you’ll now be able to cook bakes instead…

F1’s resident foodie is set to release a cookbook alongside wife Marion Jolles in the coming weeks, as announced on his Facebook page.

Grosjean currently sits 13th in the F1 drivers’ championship with 18 points to his name, helping Haas to match the points total from its debut season after just 10 races in 2017.