Pandemic not stopping Ron Capps from still racing every day

Photo: Ron Capps

Ron Capps was sim racing long before it was cool.

While many of his motorsports peers only recently have jumped on the iRacing bandwagon because of the COVID-19 crisis, the veteran NHRA Funny Car driver has been racing online for nearly a quarter-century.

“It was 1998, I had just signed to drive for Don ‘Snake’ Prudhomme, and I finally could be able to afford an actual good computer,” Capps told “One of the first PC racing games that came out then was called ‘Grand Prix Legends.’ Still to this day, it’s considered one of the most realistic racing games ever.

“You could pick drivers like Dan Gurney and Jim Clark and race these old Lotuses and things like that. The physics, graphics and realism of these old Formula cars was so realistic, it was crazy.”

Capps became so proficient and well known racing online while also starting his pro drag racing career that he was one of the original beta testers of the first iRacing platform that debuted in 2004.

iRacing was founded by David Kaemmer, who was the original co-founder of the Papyrus Design Group that produced several popular racing games including NASCAR Racing 2003 and Grand Prix Legends. The other co-founder of iRacing was Boston Red Sox owner and Roush Fenway Racing co-owner John Henry.

“After college I heard that David was starting up a company along with John Henry, and starting an auto racing platform where people can race online,” said Capps, who studied software engineering in college. “I wound up racing with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr., some road course racers and a couple Formula One guys.

“Since I had been lucky enough to drive different cars, I got on a list to beta test new cars and give feedback. I’ve been involved since then.”

The realism of iRacing — here’s Capps driving his sprint car — is uncanny. Photo: Ron Capps.

iRacing has proven to be a salvation for thousands of race fans, including virtual race broadcasts on Fox, FS1 and NBCSN.

“Unfortunately due to the coronavirus, everybody realized we’re on lockdown,” Capps said. “One morning, probably the third or fourth day of the virus here in the states, I logged on to iRacing, and there was over 12,000 users online. A couple of nights ago, I logged on and there were over 14,000 people racing, which is nuts.”

Capps has turned on several of his fellow drag racers such as Cruz Pedregon and Shawn Langdon into the iRacing fold.

And they take things VERY seriously.

One of Capps’ biggest competitors for several years was Tommy DeLago, former crew chief for Capps’ teammate at Don Schumacher Racing, Matt Hagan.

Like the Hanson Brothers in the movie “Slapshot” would take their toys with them on road trips, DeLago and Capps “would take our computers and gaming consoles on the road,” Capps said, adding with a laugh, “at night after dinner, we’d go and play games all night.”

Capps has become one of the top go-to guys when someone within the overall motorsports community wants to learn more about iRacing and sim racing.

“One of the coolest emails I got was this past December by Dave Despain,” Capps said. “He heard I was on iRacing and since he retired from broadcasting, he wanted to get on iRacing.

“I pretty much gave him the setup I had for less than $1,000. Timmy Hill won that NASCAR race a few weeks ago with the same wheel setup that I had. It was a Logitech wheel for like $200 or $250. You just need a decent seat, clamp it to the desk and have a computer monitor, just like Timmy Hill had.”

While drivers like Denny Hamlin have sim racing rigs that can cost several thousands of dollars, Capps said success in iRacing and other variations isn’t about how much money you spend on a rig, but the talent you develop.

“I finally got a new setup last September,” Capps said. “The one I had before that I probably had since 2000, and it was a used one from someone graduating from UCLA.

“It was nothing fancy, probably cost me $200 with a frame and a little racing seat. The one I just got cost me $600 for the frame and seat, and I think the steering wheel was $400 for the wheel and pedals and everything, and the monitor probably cost me about $700. It’s nothing like you see what Denny Hamlin or Kyle Busch have.”

Capps’ rig is set up in his suburban San Diego garage, parked next to his classic street rod and a drag racing simulator built from one of his old Funny Cars to practice his launches for his day job.

“I’m on it every day,” Capps said of his iRacing setup. “I’ll just log a few laps of seat time and before I know it, four hours has gone by. I go into the house and it’s already dark outside.

“Whenever we have parties at the house, it never fails that the girls are in the kitchen and the guys are all around the simulator in the garage, watching somebody race and take turns at it. The garage is just a guy’s place to hang out.”

While Capps sim races primarily in stock cars, sprint cars and the like, all the time he spends online has helped him with his drag racing exploits.

Capps takes his sim and iRacing seriously. Photo: Ron Capps.

“Since the beginning of my career, I feel me being involved in sim racing, it’s helped the hand-eye coordination more than anything,” Capps said. “There’s so much going on, a lot of people don’t realize that in 3.8 seconds what your brain and your hands and eyes have to look at and do, all while you’re looking down the track trying to see where you’re going and keep the car straight, and also like every time I’ve jumped into another car in real life and go race like at Prelude to the Dream or formula cars.The

“The difference is with my NAPA Funny Car, everything is built for me, my seat is formed to me and everything is perfect for me and I know exactly where it is without thinking about it it’s so home. When I go drive something else, I’ve got to really think about what’s going on. Everything is in a different place, the shifters are different.

“It’s just a matter of adapting to it, that’s why guys like Mario Andretti or A.J. Foyt back in the day were so good just at adapting at different cars. There’s no doubt my time on a sim in a dirt car or whatever else has definitely helped driving a Funny Car, no doubt.”

The 54-year-old Capps has helped other drivers and teams realize the nearly limitless possibilities in sim and iRacing. He was one of the first drivers/sim racers who decided to deck out their virtual rides with representation of his primary real-life sponsors, NAPA and Pennzoil.

“On the flight back from Gainesville (the first NHRA race cancelled due to the virus pandemic a month ago), I asked myself, ‘What can I do to keep myself relevant to my sponsors?’” Capps said. “The first thing I thought about was iRacing, but I had no idea how it would blow up until they put the first NASCAR race on TV.

“So I had a bunch of my cars on iRacing, sprint cars, trucks, road race, Indy cars, a bunch of them painted up like my NAPA car. So when I got on to race, it’s all my sponsors, NAPA, Pennzoil and all of them. This iRacing thing has been seamless. NAPA even put my and Alexander Rossi’s in-car shots on their YouTube pages.”

Capps is currently helping develop several new racing games, including one for drag racing and another for sprint cars. But he admits he really is hungry to get back on a real-life dragstrip.

“I really am missing drag racing a lot,” he said. “When the season ends and all the grind that happens through the playoffs and into our final race at Pomona, it takes about a month until you really want to get to a drag race. You just try to calm down and decompress. Then in about January, you’re ready to get back in it.

“With this coronavirus thing, the first week, it was great to spend more time with the family, but now, I’ve been talking to other drivers, if we didn’t have iRacing, it’d be much worse.”

He then added with a laugh, “The good thing about iRacing is that if I crash or something, I don’t have to worry about spending time in a hospital and missing my next drag race if something happens.”

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IndyCar champion Will Power completes ‘Victory Lap’ at ceremony in Indianapolis

Will Power Victory Lap
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment

INDIANAPOLIS – Will Power went on his “Victory Lap” last week to celebrate his second career championship as the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series champion.

It began with several media interviews in Monterey, California, the day after he won the championship with a third-place finish in the Sept. 11 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.

From there, it was off to Los Angeles for more interviews and personal appearances that included a VIP Tour at the Petersen Automotive Museum, several appearances on SiriusXM and lunch at The Ivy, where the Team Penske IndyCar Series driver was treated to Wagyu Beef.

“It was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had in my life,” Power told

From L.A. back to Power’s North Carolina home, near Team Penske’s home base of Mooresville, there was one stop left on Sept. 17 — the Victory Lap Celebration at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, an invitation-only banquet where Power and his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet crew at Team Penske were honored for the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship.

They didn’t even have to check into a hotel and spend another night on the road. Power and his team left on a Team Penske plane from the Statesville, N.C., airport at 4 p.m. ET Saturday to fly to Indianapolis. On arrival an hour later, a limo bus took the team to IMS.

Power led the 2022 season with five NTT P1 Awards for pole, earning the NTT P1 Award as the best qualifier of the season for the fifth time in his career. Power also made history with his 68th career pole, breaking the all-time mark held by the legendary Mario Andretti.

Power and Scott Dixon also became just two of only five drivers to complete every lap of every race in IndyCar Series history.

“What a year,” Power said as he was awarded his personal Astor Cup trophy (the second in his collection after the 2014 championship. “What a phenomenal year coming off one of my worst seasons personally. We came back with a vengeance.

“I want to thank Roger and Kathy Penske for everything they have done for me over the years. I wouldn’t be standing here and have the numbers I have without what Roger has done for me. I’m given a car every week that is capable of winning the pole, races, championships, and Indianapolis 500s. I’m so grateful for that.

“Also, to Greg Penske, you are there every week now at every event and I know we will be in good hands moving forward with the Penske Family.”

There are many on Power’s team and at home, that helped support Power throughout his career. None is bigger than Power’s wife, Liz, who told Power before the season that he would win the championship and break Andretti’s record.

“I must thank my wife. I’m so lucky to have a wife with that crystal ball that can tell me what is going to happen,” Power said. “I can’t think you enough, babe. I love you so much and you have been a big support to me my whole career. We’ve been together 17 years, and I’ve been in the series 17 years. She has been such a huge support to me. The mother of our child and she is a fantastic mother.

“She can’t tell the future. She just had faith in me.”

Liz Power’s premonition came true and that allowed Power and his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet team to celebrate Penske’s 17th IndyCar championship and 42nd title in the racing team’s history.

“The 12 crew this year, I’ve never had such a great group of guys,” Power said. “Trevor Lacasse (chief mechanic) is such a calm guy, but he does such a meticulous job on the preparation of the car. He is very, very good at keeping the whole crew happy. It feels as if there is no pressure on us. That’s a huge part in getting the most out of people. It was our first year together with you as a crew chief. What a great year to start our relationship.

“Dave Faustino (Power’s longtime engineer), we’ve worked together for 15 years. He’s almost like a wife to me, a partner … apart from sleeping together. We have a very good working relationship. Sorry Dave, I’m an awkward person and you are not.

“The things we have been through in our years together, it’s crazy that we continually improve and get better. We are standing on the podium after winning the championship and we are talking about the car, the race, and the tires. We weren’t talking about the championship.

“We never stop. The other boys were laughing at us, but I’m already thinking about next year.

“Ron Ruzewski (Team Penske IndyCar Managing Director and strategist) on the radio, always calm. He has actually made me a calm person. I rarely get upset on the radio anymore.”

Power also recognized the fans who helped boost attendance at many venues on the schedule this season as NBC Sports enjoyed its largest IndyCar audience yet.

“This series is growing,” Power said. “With open wheel racing now so popular because of Formula One, it’s really our time to push and put money behind it and go now and take IndyCar to another level because we have the best racing product in the world.

“I have to thank my teammates and (Team Penske president) Tim Cindric. I can’t tell you how hard we push each other. We are ultracompetitive and love each other and push each other hard, so thank you.”

Power won the championship by 16 points over hard-charging teammate Josef Newgarden, who finished second in the standings for the third year in a row.

“Overall, I’m filled with a lot of pride for our team and what we were able to do this year,” Newgarden said in his banquet address. “Any year that you step in the championship, you can easily see the challenges it presents everybody.

“It’s a very difficult challenge for the teams and drivers. To be a part of it, make it through it and for us at Team Penske, to topple it, is a very big deal. We’re all competitive.

“The tough thing about being in a championship fight, especially with teammates is we all want to be the best. That’s how it should be. We are competitive people and want to be the best. But it’s a team sport.

“Will, tremendous season, great, great job. I think the world of everybody on our team. It’s a big group. I’m so happy for all of you on the 12-car crew. There is so much we can take into next year.”

Six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon was unable to attend the banquet because of the Goodwood Festival in England but sent congratulations to Power via a video message.

“I really want to congratulate Will Power,” Dixon said. “You drove a tremendous season this year. Even with some of the lows that you had, some of the mistakes with qualifying, you bounced back tremendously. I know how tough these championships are and to see you do it in the style that you did it in the last race of the season, massive congratulations.”

Power’s championship formula included one victory, nine podiums and 12 top-five finishes. Teammate Josef Newgarden was second in the championship with five wins but only six podiums.

Cindric saluted Power’s season in accepting the championship team owner award.

“Will, you took it to another level this year,” Cindric said. “You are the complete package. You completed every lap, had nine podiums, finished out of the top 10 just four times, broke Mario Andretti’s record, and you did it all without cussing at the officials on national TV.

“One complaint I do has is while most of us think you might be from another planet, you never told us your wife was a fortune teller.”

Cindric also honored the seasons of Penske drivers Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin, who won three times in his second full season (“You are one of only two full-time IndyCar drivers that has driven for us in the past 23 years that hasn’t won an Indy 500 or an IndyCar championship. Your time is coming.”).

Kyle Moyer was named team manager of the year (his fifth time and Penske’s sixth). Pennzoil presented Lacasse with the chief mechanic of the year for the first time, the sixth time for Team Penske. The No. 12 crew also won the Firestone Pit Performance Award for the most pit stop performance award points in 2022.

Power, Newgarden and McLaughlin delivered nine of Chevrolet’s series-leading 11 victories this season, helping Chevy win the Manufacturer Award for the seventh time since it returned to the series in 2012 and the first time since 2017. Jim Danahy, U.S. vice president, Competition Motorsports Engineering for Chevrolet, accepted the award on behalf of his team.

Christian Lundgaard was honored as the 2022 NTT IndyCar rookie of the year. Lundgaard, from Denmark, scored one podium, two top-five finishes and seven top-10s in the No. 30 Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He edged David Malukas of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD by 18 points in the standings for first-year series drivers.

Christian Lundgaard (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

“It’s been a tough season and looking at how it panned out, we struggled so much at the beginning of the season and how we were able to turn it around means so much to me and the team,” Lundgaard said. “It’s the one thing that you only get one shot at. I’m happy to have it.

“Being the first Dane at the Indy 500 certainly helps. Competing here for me is quite important and also special. To win this award and to be here in future years means so much to me. I have a chance to compete for wins and championships.

“This team gave me this opportunity at this track one year ago. We came back and got redemption. We got our first podium here. This year was 40 years ago that Bobby Rahal won the same award. It’s pretty special to keep it among the team.”

Sweden’s Linus Lundqvist was honored as Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion after a dominant season for HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing. Lundqvist won a series-high five races in the No. 26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry and clinched the Lights championship with a race to spare, ending with a 92-point advantage over Sting Ray Robb. HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing owners Henry and Daiva Malukas accepted the team championship.

“I’m very proud of that,” Lundqvist said. “It’s cool to see. We are starting to look to the future, and this might not be doing too bad. It’s been great. As most of you can guess with Henry and Daiva Malukas (team owners), it’s been an incredible journey. So much fun that we’ve had. To be on the grid this year was so much of a struggle for us. I didn’t even know I would be doing this until January.

“To be able to pull out the season that we had, I cannot thank this team enough. We will celebrate this for a long time. I’m so happy and proud about that.”

Outgoing IndyCar Director of Medical Affairs Dr. Geoffrey Billows also was honored as he is leaving that role while battling cancer.

“When I think of Dr. Billows, I think of two words,” IndyCar president Jay Frye said. “One is selfless and the other is tough. He’s gone through a lot these last couple of years, and he didn’t want anybody to know. He’s an amazing man, and we are very grateful for what you have done.”

Dr. Geoffrey Billows with IndyCar president Jay Frye (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Billows was presented with a framed checkered flag signed by all drivers in the series as well as other IndyCar officials and dignitaries.

“I was not expecting this at all,” Billows said. “This means so much for me to be part of this family for the past 30 years. I’ve been presented with opportunities I never thought I would ever have. I can’t tell you how much I love all of you guys and care for all of you guys.

“Thank you so much. I want to also thank my wife, Tammy, who has been a pillar of strength as I continue on this journey with cancer for the past two years as well. You will still see me as a consultant because I love this too much to quit altogether.”

When the evening concluded, Team Penske boarded a bus to the airport for the short return flight to Statesville. They were home by midnight.

Power’s Victory Lap was complete.

“The best thing about this is I get to sleep in my own bed tonight,” Power said.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500