JOLIET, Illinois — It’s likely that several of John Force’s arch-rivals on the drag strip have enjoyed, even privately snickered at his struggles this season.
But not Ron Capps.
The 2016 NHRA Funny Car champ and second-winningest driver in Funny Car history (57 to Force’s 148 wins) did one of the classiest things seen in the NHRA in quite some time Sunday during eliminations of the JEGS Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in suburban Chicago.
Force and Capps squared off in a semifinal round. Coming into the run, Force had led the rivalry between the two with 56 round wins over the years to 36 by Capps and Force was hoping to go on to win the event, which would have been his first victory of 2018.
It was not to be, however. Force hit the timing block at the finish line, which resulted in a lane violation that would have disqualified him.
But that was all relative, as Capps reached the finish line first to win the run and reach the 111th final round of his career.
Afterward, Capps was interviewed in the cool down area and said some very classy things about Force. Other drivers could take a few pointers from Capps’ comments.
“John is my hero,” Capps said. “It’s hard to watch him struggle. It ain’t him or his guys. This isn’t him.
“(When they got to the start line) I had it in my heart that old man is going to get up and bite me.”
But Capps prevailed and moved on to the finals vs. Robert Hight, Force’s teammate and president of John Force Racing. Hight would go on to win the event when Capps lost traction near mid-track.
Force has endured three motor explosions and three crashes in the first nine races this season, including hitting the wall and bursting into fire Saturday night. He’s also having his worst season performance-wise since 2007, coming into this weekend’s race ranked 12th in the Funny Car point standings.
However, after Sunday, Force has moved into the top 10 for the first time this season (he’s now 10th).
Before he took his car to the pits to prepare it for the final round matchup, Capps added one last classy comment about Force, “Don’t give up on the guy, because I’m not.”