Capps happy to return to sea level for Mello Yello race at home track
 
BROWNSBURG, Ind.  - Ron Capps and the NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car team won what will be one of their biggest first-round match-ups Sunday in the Mile-High NHRA Nationals near Denver, and he can't wait to shift from high-altitude to the sea-level confines of his home track in Sonoma, Calif.
 
Capps with crew chief Rahn Tobler and assistant Eric Lane have been the dominant Funny Car this season with their Dodge Charger R/T winning four of the first 13 events on the 24-race Mello Yello Drag Racing Series circuit.
 
But that was before they had to climb the mile-high mountain at Bandimere Speedway where oxygen is a scarcity and chokes 10,000-horsepower engines.
 
Capps started the day leading Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman by 126 points for the top spot on the standings. The combination of Beckman qualifying sixth and the NAPA seeded 11th with its worst qualifying effort of the year.
 
But when the pressure was on, Tobler tuned Capps to 4.047-second run to eliminate Beckman's 4.078 to extend his lead over Beckman although Courtney Force advanced to the final round and moved around Beckman to second in the standings.
 
"That first round win was huge," said Capps. "We lost the next race because Tobler was aggressive and I love that about him. We're No. 1 in points because that's how he's been approaching it the last couple months and that's what we need to do to keep the lead."
 
Capps isn't only pleased to be back at sea level because of how it makes his Dodge Charger R/T happier than when it is in the mountains. This weekend he gets to race at Sonoma Raceway, where he has won four times in six final rounds. It is the closest NHRA track to his hometown of San Luis Obispo about 275 miles away.
 
He's spent the past two weeks with family and friends camping near San Luis Obispo except for the foray to Denver. It's always an emotional return to Sonoma for other reasons. This year he will get to visit the plaque he received when he was inducted into the Sonoma Raceway Wall of Fame.
 
"It was such an honor to be mentioned with the people on the Sonoma Raceway Wall of Fame," he said. "I have so many great memories at Sonoma, and it's always truly felt like my home track. I love the facility, the fans, supporting its Speedway Children's Charity and it is incredibly special to be inducted."
 
His stay in Sonoma will begin with a bittersweet event that honors the memory of late Funny Car driver Eric Medlen, who grew up in Northern California. He died in 2007 in a testing accident.
 
"I can't believe this is the 10th year we've celebrated Eric," Capps said. "You always expect to walk into him at the races with that big smile on his race. Everybody was his friend, and he sure liked his ice cream.
 
"I'm so glad his dad (John Medlen) has been one of our crew chiefs at Don Schumacher Racing because it's like having a piece of Eric with us all the time."
 
Capps will celebrate Medlen's life with friends and family on Thursday during the 10th annual Eric Medlen Nitro Night Charity Dinner at Bay Club Stone Tree, five miles from the raceway in Novato. In addition to raising funds for Speedway Children's Charities (SCC), the charitable arm of Sonoma Raceway, the evening is dedicated to the memory of Medlen, a native of the San Joaquin Valley.
 
For more information or to purchase tickets to the Eric Medlen Nitro Night Dinner, visit http://bit.ly/29l21Ax or contact Cheri Plattner at 707-933-3950 (cplattner@sonomaraceway.com)
 
RON CAPPS: NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
Last event Denver, July 22-24: Qualified No. 11, lost in second round to Del Worsham
A year ago at Sonoma: Qualified No. 4, lost in second round to Robert Hight
Career at Sonoma: Wins 4 (1997, 2010-11, 2013); Runner-ups 2 (2002, 2005); Poles 1 (1998)
 
          Pts   Events    Wins  Rup  Semi  Qtr  1st rd   Poles DNQ   W/L
2016  1st        14          4         2        2       4        2          4        1      30-9
CAREER       473         49      47      84     97     178      222     19    602-405
Best Time, Speed: 3.865 sec., (2016, Epping); 327.19 mph (2015, St. Louis)
 
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES FUNNY CAR STANDINGS
Through 14 of 24 events, wins in parenthesis; DSR DRIVERS IN CAPS
  1. RON CAPPS (4)                                1,120     -----
  2. Courtney Force (1)                               998     -122
  3. JACK BECKMAN (1)                          976     -144
  4. MATT HAGAN (2)                                881     -239
  5. Robert Hight (1)                                    877     -243
  5. Del Worsham                                         877     -243
  7. TOMMY JOHNSON JR. (1)                 855     -265
  8. John Force (1)                                        821     -299
  9. Tim Wilkerson (2)                                   793     -327
10. Alexis DeJoria (1)                                  733     -387