NHRA: Driving like he did 10 years ago has Ron Capps excited about ’16

(Photos courtesy NHRA)

If 50 is the new 40, then NHRA Funny Car driver Ron Capps — who hit the half-century mark back in June — is back driving like he did in the prime of his career.

It was 10 years ago – when Capps was 40 – that the Carlsbad, California resident finished second in the Funny Car standings to teammate Gary Scelzi, at the time the closest season differential (8 points) in NHRA history.

After finishing eighth in 2014 and sixth in 2013, Capps rebounded to finish fourth in this year’s standings. It was his best season showing since 2012, when he came in as runner-up for the fourth time in his career.

His performance this season was also Capps’ third top-4 Funny Car finish in the last seven seasons, adding to promise of a continued career resurgence in 2016 for the long-time NAPA-sponsored driver.

Capps performed outstanding in the six-race Countdown to the Championship. Including Sunday’s performance in the Auto Club Finals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California, Capps finished the season by reaching the semifinal round in each of the last five races.

ron capps 2015 head shot

That, too, bodes well for next season.

“Yeah, our NAPA Dodge has been very solid the last part of the season,” Capps said in a media release.

Capps said his recent success is due primarily to veteran crew chief Rahn Tobler finding something that has definitely picked up his 2015 Dodge Charger Funny Car’s performance.

“Tobler and the NAPA guys have worked hard all year and they’ve been seeing that pay off,” Capps said.

It’s been nearly 20 years since Capps was essentially discovered by legendary drag racer Don “Snake” Prudhomme. He’s gone on to amass 45 wins in his career: 44 in Funny Car and 1 in Top Fuel.

Two of those wins came this season.

And while Capps once again fell short of earning his first career NHRA Funny Car championship, he definitely has the car and the team behind him to eventually reach that goal.

“I’m excited more so for Pomona than I have been for a long time,” he said prior to this weekend’s season finale. “We don’t have a chance to win the championship but Tobler has found a lot of little things that has helped and we’re already excited about 2016.”

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Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing

Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.