PHOENIX, Ariz. – After a runner-up finish at the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., Funny Car driver Ron Capps is looking to continue the early season momentum as he and the entire NAPA Auto Parts team head to Firebird International Raceway.
“I’ve always loved going to Phoenix,” said Capps, who lost to Courtney Force in the final round of the 2013 season-opener last weekend and sits second in the points standings. “I relate to my love for certain tracks because of what I’m able to do around the track. Phoenix always has been a fun trip for our family.”
With 38 career victories and 75 final round appearances at the controls of his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger, Capps will certainly be one to watch at the 29th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals, Feb. 22-24. Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) are the defending winners of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event, which will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD.
Capps’ confidence is high due to his past performance at the popular desert track, which includes two wins in five final round appearances and two No. 1 qualifying positions.
“We’ve had success there and that really makes you like going back,” Capps said.
“You put all that together with the climate and the great fans there and it makes it one of the special tracks for us on the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series,” he added.
At the end of a long day at the track, spending time with the family is something he truly values. Since his Carlsbad, Calif. home is so close to central Arizona, it’s a perfect time for the entire Capps family to take a little road trip.
“Growing up on the West Coast it’s one of the tracks where a lot of family and friends can get to,” said Capps. “We always go to Rustler’s Rooste; that’s a restaurant with a western theme and a fun slide at the front door. They play great country and western music there. It’s a lot of fun and the kids have memories of going there because we’ve gone there every year since they were born.”
In order to make a return to the FIR victory circle at the end of the weekend, Capps will need to hold off a host of challengers, including defending world champion “Fast Jack” Beckman, a three-time winner at Phoenix, defending race winner Hight, sophomore sensation Courtney Force who is riding high after a win at the Winternationals, eight-time FIR winner John Force, and 2011 world champ Matt Hagan, among others.
Top Fuel world champion Brown returns to FIR in hopes of repeating as the event winner in his Matco Tools dragster, but the competition will be tough. Current points leader Shawn Langdon is eyeing his second win of the 2013 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season while three-time FIR winner Tony Schumacher, speed record holder Spencer Massey and rookie Brittany Force are in hot pursuit of the Al-Anabi Racing driver.
The competition is just as intense in Pro Stock as a host of challengers will try to stop Line and his Summit Racing team from winning this event for a second straight year. NHRA Winternationals winner Vincent Nobile, defending world champion Allen Johnson and fan-favorite Erica Enders-Stevens are all hoping to have a successful weekend in the Valley of the Sun.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful motorsports attraction on the planet. While visiting the pits, fans will also want to check out the interactive NHRA Nitro Alley and the NHRA Manufacturers Midway.
Fans also will want to take advantage of the popular Championship Sunday Track Walk, which is free to all Sunday ticket holders. This popular event gives fans the opportunity to walk down the legendary drag strip alongside some of the NHRA’s biggest stars.
• SCHEDULE: Mello Yello Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 22 and continue on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 24.
• TICKETS: Tickets are available for the NHRA Arizona Nationals online at www.firebirdraceway.com or by calling the FIR ticket office at (602) 268-0200.
• TELEVISION: ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise 90 minutes of qualifying coverage at 1 a.m. (ET) on Sunday, Feb. 24 and three hours and 30 minutes of eliminations coverage at 8 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Feb. 24.
• ON THE WEB: Get instant results, access to photos, video and audio clips, and the latest news updates from every NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event on the Internet at www.NHRA.com.
NHRA ARIZONA NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 29th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals, the second of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in three categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock – earn points leading to 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Firebird International Raceway, Chandler, Ariz. Track is located off Interstate 10 at exit 162. Follow the signs.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, Feb. 22-24.
FRIDAY, Feb. 22 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 2 and 4 p.m.
SATURDAY, Feb. 23- LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, Feb. 24 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Sunday, Feb. 24, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise 90 minutes of qualifying highlights at 1 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, Feb. 24, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will re-air one hour of coverage starting at 8 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, Feb. 24, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours and 30 minutes of coverage starting at 8 p.m. (ET).
SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):
Friday, Feb. 22, 9 - 9:30 p.m. (ET), AMC 9 / Transponder 08C
Saturday, Feb. 23, 8 - 8:30 p.m. (ET), AMC 9 / Transponder 08C
Sunday, Feb. 24, 9 - 9:30 p.m. (ET), AMC 9 / Transponder 08C
(3860 MHz, vertical; Data Rate: 40.46147055; Mbp; Symbol Rate: 29.27 Ms; FEC: ¾; Bandwidth: 36 Mhz)
Video news release contains race action highlights each day and winners’ interviews on Sunday.
2012 EVENT WINNERS: Antron Brown, Top Fuel; Robert Hight, Funny Car; Jason Line, Pro Stock
MOST VICTORIES: John Force, FC - 8; Bob Glidden, PS - 5; Jack Beckman, FC - 3; Kenny Bernstein, TF-FC - 3; Larry Dixon, TF - 3; Tony Schumacher, TF - 3; Cory McClenathan, TF - 3;Darrell Alderman, PS - 3; Kurt Johnson, PS - 3; Warren Johnson, PS - 3.
Top Fuel - 3.754 sec. by Shawn Langdon Feb. ’12; 325.37 mph by Spencer Massey, Feb. ’12.
Funny Car - 4.023 sec. by Ron Capps, Feb. ’09; 311.34 mph by Matt Hagan, Feb. ’10.
Pro Stock - 6.536 sec. by Mike Edwards, Feb. ’12; 211.76 mph by Mike Edwards, Feb. ’12.
Top Fuel - 3.701 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
Funny Car - 3.986 sec. by Jack Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 320.58 mph by Beckman, Oct. ‘12, Reading, Pa.
Pro Stock - 6.477 sec. by Jason Line, Oct. ’11, Reading, Pa.; 214.35 mph by Line, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
TICKETS: For tickets call (602) 268-0200. Tickets also available online at www.firebirdraceway.com.
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. -- Point standings (top 10) following the first of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
Top Fuel: 1. Shawn Langdon, 116; 2. Tony Schumacher, 106; 3. Khalid alBalooshi, 74; 4. Antron Brown, 67; 5. Brandon Bernstein, 60; 6. Doug Kalitta, 59; 7. David Grubnic, 55; 8. Steve Torrence, 53; 9. Spencer Massey, 34; 10. Clay Millican, 33.
Funny Car: 1. Courtney Force, 124; 2. Ron Capps, 94; 3. Johnny Gray, 76; 4. Bob Tasca III, 71; 5. Gary Densham, 60; 6. Cruz Pedregon, 56; 7. Matt Hagan, 52; 8. Todd Lesenko, 51; 9. Jack Beckman, 43; 10. Del Worsham, 38.
Pro Stock: 1. Vincent Nobile, 118; 2. Jeg Coughlin, 95; 3. V. Gaines, 81; 4. Greg Stanfield, 72; 5. Allen Johnson, 52; 6. (tie) Shane Gray, 51; Kurt Johnson, 51; Chris McGaha, 51; 9. Mike Edwards, 45; 10. Erica Enders-Stevens, 42.