Capps enjoys crew chiefs' family ties at Houston SpringNationals

Submitted by Frank Upton | 04/20/2017

Capps relishes time at Houston where crew chief Tobler,

DSR's Venables recall their Houston youth in drag racing

BROWNSBURG, Ind. (April 19, 2017) -

A chance meeting in Houston more than 40 years ago contributed to Ron Capps with Don Schumacher Racing's NAPA AUTO PARTS team winning his first NHRA world championship last year in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

And this weekend Capps returns to Houston for the NHRA SpringNationals when the DSR pit area will be flooded by nostalgic memories, mostly for NAPA crew chief Rahn Tobler and Dickie Venables, crew chief for DSR's Dodge Charger R/T driven by Matt Hagan.

Tobler and Venables have been good friends since Tobler was 16 when he began hanging out at Venables' father's auto repair and race shop in Houston. Tobler grew up in Southern California but moved to Houston when his mother, an analyst for Shell Oil, was transferred by the company.

While riding his bicycle home from a part-time job at a grocery store one day, Tobler discovered a garage behind a gasoline station that housed a front-engine Top Fuel dragster owned by legendary racers Stephens & Venables.

Tobler had attended drag races in Southern California growing up and was easily attracted to the garage. He soon began helping clean the shop before moving up to travel with the team that later led to a career as a crew chief and four NHRA world championships including last year's first with NAPA and Capps.

Tobler later hired Dickie to join his Top Fuel team with driver Shirley Muldowney. Venables has gone on to win three Funny Car world championships, including 2014 with Hagan.

No one appreciates the Tobler-Venables connection more than Capps, a lifelong drag racing fan.

"Dickie's dad (Dick) has been in our pit with Dickie and Tobler, and I just like to stand back to look at the history they share," said Capps, who has won three times at Houston including 2015 with Tobler.

"I grew up in my dad's garage working on racecars so it means a lot to me when I hear stories from Tobler and Dickie about their early days."

The last thing Capps and his NAPA AutoCare Center crew wanted was a two-week break from the Mello Yello tour after they were knocked out of competition in the first round at the last race at Las Vegas to mark the first time in 20 events that did not advance to the quarterfinals.

"It was so rare for our team to lose a cylinder and we haven't lost in the first round for a long time," said Capps, who qualified fourth at Las Vegas.

"I thought about maybe pedaling it because I didn't see (rookie Jonnie Lindberg who advanced to the final round) or hear him in the other lane. I thought, 'Oh, maybe I'll slap the throttle.' But with that much volume of fuel going into the engine you don't want to do it that far down the track.

"It just finally knocked the (supercharger) belt off. Stuff like that happens, just not very often to us.

Capps will arrive at Houston ranked fourth in points with one final round and one semifinals finish.

Houston will is the first of three consecutive race weekends after two weeks off in the 24-race NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.


Pts Events Wins Rup Semi Qtr 1st rd Poles DNQ W/L

2017 4th 4 0 1 1 1 1 0 0 6-4

CAREER 487 50 (49 FC/1 TF) 51 90 99 179 21 19 632-418

Best Time, Speed: 3.839 sec., (Phoenix, 2017); 333.58 mph, (Phoenix 2017)

Last event (March 31-April 2): Qualified No. 4, lost in first round to eventual finalist Jonnie Lindberg

A year ago at Houston: No. 6, lost in second round to event winner Courtney Force

Career at Houston: Wins 3 (2015, 2007, 2006); Runner-ups 1 (2012); Poles 0


1. MATT HAGAN (2) 368 -----

2. TOMMY JOHNSON JR. (1) 324 -44

3. John Force (1) 314 -54

4. RON CAPPS 275 -93

5. Courtney Force 218 -150

6. JACK BECKMAN 205 -163

7. Robert Hight 201 -167
8. Jonnie Lindberg 183 -185

9. Jim Campbell 180 -188

10. J.R. Todd 170 -198

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