Brut Revolution Dodge Charger R/T driver Ron Capps led the charge for Team Mopar at the Feb. 23-25 Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals in Phoenix, grabbing two round wins, advancing to the semis and moving to fourth in the Funny Car points standings.
Capps first defeated 14-time Funny Car champion John Force in the opening stanza by a mere three feet in a dramatic match-up. Tim Wilkerson was Capps' next opponent, and the Carlsbad, Calif., resident handily dismissed him with a 4.766/318.69 run. Capps then faced Robert Hight in the semifinal round, in what should have been a stellar race between two of the hottest series' drivers. It turned into an easy victory for Hight, as Capps was disqualified for fouling out after he experienced his first-ever red-light.
“I was real surprised,” Capps said. “I don't think my brain even said go. My foot was down, and it was already past the tree, and I saw the red light, and I thought, ‘Oh, my God.’ In that moment between pre-stage and stage for a driver, no matter what class, you're in the utmost concentration. I didn't have any lack of concentration; it just felt like another round. Next thing I know, my foot was down, and away you go. I let my guys down.”
Gary Scelzi and Jack Beckman, Team Mopar and Don Schumacher Racing teammates to Capps, will turn their gaze to Gainesville after first round Phoenix exits. Scelzi, winner of the season-opening event at Pomona, qualified his Mopar/Oakley Dodge Charger R/T third, but lost in his first round match versus Gary Densham.
"The car went out there and kind of surprised me when it smoked the tire and got away from me and got her too sideways and tried to get it to recover, but I got over by the wall and it just was an animal. I couldn't get it to respond. And when I finally got it to go, it blew the tires off again, and we lost by .0095 of a second,” Scelzi explained.
Beckman seeded his Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger R/T ninth and came up short in a pedaling match against Eric Medlen, after both cars experienced traction problems. The race was only Beckman's seventh in Funny Car, as the DSR driver, who debuted last year with one win and two finals in only five events, continues to gain experience.
“I get behind the car sometimes,” Beckman said. “It's frustrating knowing you're making those mistakes when you're driving for a championship team. They have a top-five car and I just want to get myself to be a top-10 driver soon. And, I find I make improvements and then something different will happen that I've never experienced. And it's such a steep learning curve in these cars. And right now I'm just a little bit frustrated.” Scelzi is now third in the Funny Car standings, with Beckman tenth.