Capps, Scelzi tied in fourth after qualifying
Richmond, Saturday: It was an agonizing two days of qualifying at Virginia Motorsports Park for the DSR Funny Car drivers at the Torco Racing Fuels NHRA Nationals, as the top six in points vie for the coveted four spots at this final event of the Countdown to Four championship playoffs. The Funny Car champion will be crowned from one of these four following the last two events of the season, known as the Countdown to One.
Ron Capps, driving the Valvoline/Brut Dodge Charger R/T, entered this event fifth in the standings. With fourth-place John Force recuperating from recent injuries and not competing here, Capps moved into that fourth slot, Gary Scelzi into fifth.
Qualifying for this event was key for both these drivers, as DSR teammate Jack Beckman, Robert Hight and Mike Ashley are also aiming for a place in the quartet. Tomorrow's eliminations will determine that slate.
The agony came when both Scelzi and Capps entered the final of only three sessions held (because of rain on Friday) not in the field. That final attempt was for all the money, as a DNQ would have knocked them both out of the Countdown to Four.
A welcome cloud cover rolled in during the Top Fuel qualifying just before the start of Funny Car trials, which remained throughout that session. It was a nail-biter, but Capps squeaked into the field with a solid pass of 4.901 seconds at 314.61 mph. Not great, but good enough to earn the 15th spot. Scelzi also posted a strong pass, getting in at No. 8. This tied the pair in fourth place in points. The tie-breaker is round wins during the Countdown to Four, which goes to Scelzi.
Capps' other passes were a tire-smoking 8.727/92.93 (No. 12 at the time), and a 5.238/220.30 earlier today which produced a brief fireball at the finish line and a DNQ (did not qualify).
"The first run it was on a great run and we actually had the main fuel line break at the hose of the fittings," explained Capps. "Fuel went everywhere. It was fuel that was on fire, it was nothing more than that. It was a quick flash fire. It really wasn't that bad in the car; it just looked bad on the outside.
"It's been another one of those weekends so far for everybody. It's a pressure-filled weekend. And now basically our season rides on a first round match-up with Robert Hight. It's been this way all season, it seems. Right now, if you want to be the best you have to beat the best. Hight's car is one of the best cars.
"It was hard earlier not to cheer for Gary and the Mopar/Oakley team when we're fighting those guys for a championship, his being a teammate and all.
"It's tough to race against guys for the one spot we're fighting for. We're not going to have lane choice, it's going to be warm, and we have them all stacked against us. But we had them stacked against us the last run. It was a great call by Ace (crew chief Ed McCulloch) to get down the track.
"It seems like the adversity just keeps coming at us and we keep having to get past it, and that's part of it," added Capps, who had led the majority of the season by as much as 154 points before the Countdown to the Championship kicked in. "Basically it boils down to our 2007 season is the first round tomorrow. Because if we lose that round, the last two races mean nothing to us. We're working for a championship.
"You couldn't ask for a tougher match-up, but I really believe in this team."
As mentioned, Capps faces second-in-points Robert Hight in the opening round of eliminations on Sunday.
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