NHRA: Ron Capps escapes chilling crash that left him trapped, upside down (video)


BROWNSBURG, Indiana – Ron Capps has had some scary episodes in his drag racing career. He’s been involved in wrecks, rollovers and fires.

But nothing compares to Sunday when Capps wound up trapped and upside down at the end of the dragstrip at Lucas Oil Raceway during his first of two qualifying efforts for the day.

Everything was normal at first. Capps was quicker than 16-time Funny Car champ John Force on the run.

But once Capps passed the finish line, the parachutes on his NAPA Funny Car failed to deploy.

Things suddenly went from bad to worse – much worse:

While the chutes finally opened but not at full deployment, Capps’ car left the race track and into the sand run-off area, where just before hitting the retaining fence, the car flipped upside down, leaving Capps hanging upside down and strapped in. Because of his predicament, he couldn’t exit the usual way drivers can when in trouble: through the roof flap, because it was buried in the sand.

On top of that all, not only did it take safety officials several minutes to get Capps’ car upright to allow him to escape, he ran out of air in his helmet, leading to a very scary and panic-filled situation for Capps.

“It’s the worst,” Capps exclusively told NBCSports.com of the nastiest incident of his nearly 30-year drag racing career. “I’ve flipped Tony Stewart’s Midget car in the Chili Bowl over the fence in Turn 1, I’ve wrecked in a dirt car, and in a Funny Car I’ve had explosions and wrecks and fires, where the car was still running and I jumped out of it at 50 mph.

“But this was the most uneasy feeling I’ve ever had. You would think it’s not as bad as that other stuff, but I was laying there strapped in still and being upside down and starting to freak out. I was hearing the cracking and popping of the engine because it was hot from the run, you’re upside down because you’re trapped, and you can’t use the roof hatch because it’s laying there in the sand.”

Capps may be smiling in this photo, but he wasn't smiling after being trapped in his upside-down Funny Car at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.
Capps may be smiling in this photo, but he wasn’t smiling after being trapped in his upside-down Funny Car at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.

Capps then went into further detail about the incident:

“I have a chute button. I hit it several times, I’m still trying to remember what the events were. I’ve been through a lot of weird things in a Funny Car and things happen real fast when you’re going 325 mph. The chutes either got tangled or they came out and didn’t blossom.

“You just go into everything you were taught: get the fuel shut off, which thank God NHRA has a system that if you go past a certain point past the finish line, it’s supposed to shut the fuel off and put the chutes and kill the ignition. The chutes just never blossomed. I was on the brakes until I think I boiled the brake fluid.

“It got to the point where I knew the sand was coming up and I knew I had to start bracing myself. And then I tried to enter the sand trap on an angle where I could slow it down gradually, like a dirt car. I didn’t want to tip it but I didn’t want to go straight in and catch the front and flip over the net like (Del) Worsham and (Gary) Densham did in the past. That scares me.

“It was working until just when it caught the lip and flipped over at the end and slid into the end of the sand trap. I thought that was going to be the worst of it, but the worst was being trapped in the car upside down because the only way out of the car is the (roof) flap on top of the car – and it was buried in the sand.

“That’s way faster than I’ve ever gone into a net. Then I knew I had to keep from getting hurt.

“I have yet ever to be in that position in as many runs as I’ve made in my career, and I’ve gotta tell you that was the scariest two minutes or whatever, and they kept telling me they had people coming. And, I had Eric (Lane), my assistant crew chief, on the radio listening to me and heard the panic in my voice got worse, and then the panic in his voice got worse.

“The car needed to be flipped over. The NHRA Safety Safari is the best in the business, but when you have just a little circular hole in the side window and they’re telling you to just hang on, if there was a fire in there, I would have just burned. It was scary. It was weird.

“I’ve been through fires and everything, you name it, but that was an uneasy feeling. And then my air ran out in my helmet. I could hear the air (dissipating), I was panicking, but I had a radio and could talk to (Lane) and kept telling him, ‘Hey man, please get me out, you’ve gotta get this thing flipped over.’

“And he said back to me, ‘They’re working on it. They’re coming to you.’ … So they finally got enough people there to partially flip it over, I undid the belts, fell right to the ceiling and was able to get out. It was brutal.”

Shortly after Capps climbed from his race car, Force came down to check on his friend and fellow competitor.

“Force said he’s been through that a couple times and said it’s the scariest thing he’s ever gone through,” Capps said. “You’d think you wouldn’t be that scared after being on fire or having engine explosions in front of you, but it doesn’t compare to being trapped in there.”

While he praised the NHRA’s Safety Safari crew for ultimately saving him, Capps spoke to NHRA officials after the incident.

“They have a tractor at the end of the track,” Capps said. “Like in Formula One, they have to be able to get that tractor in there and grab the car and pull it over on its own.

“I don’t know why it took so long to get the tractor there, but I’m screaming and sitting upside down and if something catches fire, I have nowhere to go. I was just waiting, suspended in my belts. My head wasn’t even touching the roll bar.

“I don’t know how long I was in there, but it was minutes – it took too long.”

As if to add insult to injury – even though he was not hurt – while Capps won the run against Force, NHRA officials denied him the opportunity to continue on in the Traxxas Shootout.

Even though he felt the body of his car was not severely mangled, NHRA officials ruled otherwise. As a result, Capps was forced to go to a backup body, which is not allowed to continue under rules of an in-progress event, even an exhibition race like the Traxxas Shootout.

As a result, Capps lost the chance to compete for the $100,000 prize for winning the Shootout. While he was still able to make a second qualifying pass for the day, it was not allowed to be counted towards the Shootout.

About an hour or so after the incident, Capps was his usual laid-back self. He even found a bit of humor in what he went through.

“Claustrophobia is not something a Funny Car driver can have, nor have I ever had,” Capps said with a laugh. “If you’re claustrophobic, you’ll never be a Funny Car driver.”

He then turned serious once again: “I started panicking and was screaming, ‘Get this thing turned over.’”

At the end of the interview, Capps was more concerned about winning the U.S. Nationals for the first time on Monday (he’s finished runner-up four times). Frankly, he was almost nonchalant at potentially cheating death: “I’m fine.”

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IndyCar results, points after Detroit Grand Prix


DETROIT — Alex Palou topped the results of an NTT IndyCar Series race for the second time this season, extending his championship points lead with his victory in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver, who also won the GMR Grand Prix (and the Indy 500 pole position) last month, holds a 51-point lead over teammate Marcus Ericsson (ninth at Detroit) through seven of 17 races this season.

Ganassi, which placed all four of its drivers in the top 10 at Detroit, has three of the top four in the championship standings with Scott Dixon ranked fourth after a fourth at Detroit.

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Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden is third in the standings after taking a 10th at Detroit. Pato O’Ward slipped to fifth in the points after crashing and finishing 26th

Here are the IndyCar results and points standings after the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix:


Click here for the official box score from the 100-lap race on a nine-turn, 1.645-mile street course in downtown Detroit.

Lap leader summary

Full lap chart

Best section times

Full section data

Event summary

Pit stop summary

Here is the finishing order in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix with starting position in parentheses, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (1) Alex Palou, Honda, 100, Running
2. (7) Will Power, Chevrolet, 100, Running
3. (9) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 100, Running
4. (4) Scott Dixon, Honda, 100, Running
5. (13) Alexander Rossi, Chevrolet, 100, Running
6. (12) Kyle Kirkwood, Honda, 100, Running
7. (2) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 100, Running
8. (11) Marcus Armstrong, Honda, 100, Running
9. (6) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 100, Running
10. (5) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 100, Running
11. (24) Colton Herta, Honda, 100, Running
12. (17) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 100, Running
13. (8) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 100, Running
14. (20) Agustin Canapino, Chevrolet, 100, Running
15. (15) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 100, Running
16. (18) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 100, Running
17. (25) Jack Harvey, Honda, 100, Running
18. (14) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 100, Running
19. (23) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 100, Running
20. (19) Benjamin Pedersen, Chevrolet, 97, Running
21. (22) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 97, Running
22. (26) Sting Ray Robb, Honda, 97, Running
23. (21) David Malukas, Honda, 85, Contact
24. (3) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 80, Contact
25. (27) Graham Rahal, Honda, 50, Contact
26. (10) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 41, Contact
27. (16) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 1, Contact

Winner’s average speed: 80.922 mph; Time of Race: 02:01:58.1171; Margin of victory: 1.1843 seconds; Cautions: 7 for 32 laps; Lead changes: 10 among seven drivers. Lap Leaders: Palou 1-28; Power 29-33; O’Ward 34; Palou 35-55; Power 56-64; Palou 65; Rossi 66; Newgarden 67-68; Kirkwood 69; Ericsson 70-76; Palou 77-100.


Click here for the points tally in the race.

Here are the points standings after the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix:



Engine manufacturers

Pit stop performance

Top 10 in points: Palou 273, Ericsson 222, Newgarden 203, Dixon 194, O’Ward 191, Rossi 176, McLaughlin 175, Power 172, Herta 149, Rosenqvist 148.

Rest of the standings: Grosjean 145, Kirkwood 142, Lundgaard 136, Ilott 116, VeeKay 108, Ferrucci 105, Armstrong 101, Rahal 99, Malukas 91, Daly 88, DeFrancesco 81, Castroneves 80, Harvey 78, Canapino 77, Pagenaud 72, Pedersen 61, Robb 55, Takuma Sato 37, Ed Carpenter 27, Ryan Hunter-Reay 20, Tony Kanaan 18, Marco Andretti 13, RC Enerson 5, Katherine Legge 5.

Next race: IndyCar will head to Road America for the Sonsio Grand Prix, which will take place June 18 with coverage starting at 1 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock.