By: Drew Hierwarter
NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth and NHRA Funny Car driver Ron Capps have both gotten their year off to a great start by winning the first two races of their respective seasons. Kenseth won the Daytona 500 and followed that up with a win this past weekend in the Auto Club 500 at Southern California’s Auto Club Speedway.
Three hundred and fifty miles to the east at Firebird Raceway just outside Phoenix, Arizona, Ron Capps was having a similar weekend. Coming off his win at the season opening Winternationals in Pomona, Capps won the Funny Car portion of the Lucas Oil Slick Mist Nationals with a dominating performance. He qualified in the number one position and then proceeded to mow down the competition on Sunday.
The only easy round for Ron Capps was the final when John Force Racing’s driver Mike Neff couldn’t get his car into reverse after the burnout. Capps thundered to a 4.048 elapsed time at 306.81 mph anyway. Before the final, Capps ran ET’s from 4.079 to 4.118 beating Jeff Arend, Matt Hagen, and Del Worsham.
“The start we’re having to the season is what NAPA signed up for,” said Capps, “We did so well with the Brut car, and we were disappointed with what we gave NAPA last year. This is more like it. I’m living a dream right now.”
Top Fuel driver Antron Brown had to use a little luck to get to the final as his engine suffered internal damage in the opening round but he still got to the finish line before rookie driver Del Cox, Jr. Brown then used a series 3.80s to get around Shawn Langdon and Tony Schumacher before defeating Brandon Bernstein in the final.
“This just shows you how strong this team is,” said Brown, “We were bummed in Pomona, because we had the car to beat going into the final before we had a mishap that slowed us down. The crew is getting more confident with every run. I think we’re going to keep getting stronger as the year goes on.”
Jeg Couglin became the fourth winningest Pro Stock driver in history when he got his 42nd victory by defeating Kurt Johnson in the final.
“We didn’t have the best car today by any stretch, but we just kept crawling our way through them and keeping our head up. To see that win light come on in the final round with the crowd we had today and the points and the whole bit, it feels fantastic.”
Back in California, while Matt Kenseth was spraying champaign in victory lane, second place finisher Jeff Gordon was telling reporters that the question is no longer when he will win his next race, but how many he will win this year. He ran near the front most of the race and was the only driver who could challenge Kenseth near the end.
“I think we’re head-and-shoulders above where we were,” Gordon said. “I know we’re just a couple races in, and this is one race, but I just loved the way the car was driving. To be able to battle and go to the front like that and have solid pit stops, I’m just really excited.”
After winning the Camping World Series truck race and the Nationwide Series race in dominating fashion on Saturday, third place finisher Kyle Busch missed his chance at history. A win on Sunday would’ve made him the first driver to sweep a NASCAR triple-header weekend.
“I couldn’t even challenge them,” Busch said, “I couldn’t even keep up with the 17 and the 24 on that last run.”
Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, and Brian Vickers rounded out the top ten finishers.
Of the five caution flag periods during the race, the only one that wasn’t for light rain showers was on lap 208 when Kevin Harvick slammed the wall after blowing a right front tire. His retirement from the race marked the first time in 81 races that he wasn’t on the track when the checkered flag fell and ends a record streak for the modern era.