Today marks the second week of February and that means one thing, it’s getting closer to the start of racing season for the NHRA. This week the teams will be participating in the PRO Nitro Spring Training test session and for two time and defending NHRA Funny Car world champion, Ron Capps, it means the start of his new journey as team owner and driver of the NAPA Auto Parts Funny Car.
For the past 27 years, Ron has enjoyed the perks of being a ‘hired driver’, but shortly after being crowned the 2021 Funny Car champion Ron announced that he was departing his longtime home at Don Schumacher Racing to form his own team, Ron Capps Motorsports. Since that announcement he has been working tirelessly around the clock to make sure he and his team are prepared to defend their title when the 2022 NHRA season kicks off next weekend in Pomona, California.
While Nitro Spring Training will be the first time Ron’s two duties officially intertwine, it won’t be the first time he’s had to juggle his new team owner responsibilities with his driving duties.
“It was last year at the US Nationals race when I had the talk with Don Schumacher that I was going to branch off and do my own thing,” said the 68 time race winner. “So, I had all of these different sponsors and options that we were pursuing throughout the Countdown and a lot of the behind the scenes things that go with starting a new team; that was all happening during the playoffs. A lot of people don’t realize that on top of trying to win a world championship, I also had all of that going on in my head.
“Obviously this year will be quite different as now it’s all come to fruition, it’s added a whole other level of responsibility, but at least I have some experience juggling both. Thankfully, it worked out well last year, and we got through it and won the championship, but I’m excited to find out exactly how it will be this year. I’m not sure yet if it’ll be something where it’s hard to take the ‘owner’ hat off and then switch fully into ‘driver’ mode. I’ve heard other driver-owners talk about that part of it, and I’m looking forward to seeing how I handle and adapt to all of that.”
Ron has been lucky to have longtime partner NAPA Auto Parts and his entire championship winning team, led by crew chiefs Dean ‘Guido’ Antonelli and John Medlen, seamlessly transitioning with him into this new chapter of his career, but he’s the first to admit that getting everything done and ready in time to start the season has been a tall order.
“I would say the biggest adjustment so far has been having to get a lot done in a very short period of time. Usually, for us drivers, you get a little time off after the NHRA finals, and then you’ll fly out for a photoshoot here and there, PRI, and you’ll do all of the sponsor activation stuff in the off season to get ready for the following season, but this year, with assembling a new operation, it’s a whole different ballgame. You’ve got to get the team set up with payroll, insurance, things like that. Trying to get all of the small details taken care of in such a short amount of time is crucial, because not only do decisions need to be made and approvals need to be had, but you’ve got to make sure things such as crew uniforms, team merchandise for the midway, and all of those sorts of things are ordered in time to be ready by your Pomona deadline. Thankfully, I have a lot of people around me that have helped me a lot, but that was probably the biggest eye opener in this whole process.”
As one of the longest tenured racers in the sport and the second winningest driver in the Funny Car class, Ron has been able to check off many of the items on his personal career bucket list and has achieved a lot of firsts. He’s been candid about the fact that team ownership has been a goal of his for quite some time and when the opportunity presented itself during the 2021 season, he knew that it was the right time to take that leap. He however, isn’t naive to the fact that there will be some growing pains.
“I know that it won’t be without its challenges. There will be those moments or those weekends where something will go wrong. I’m not looking forward to that. Having to put fires out here and there, things you hear about from other team owners, those are things I’m not looking forward to, but obviously no matter what happens, the good and the bad, at the end of the day, I know I’ll be able to look back and say ‘it’s ours.’ And, I’ve got to give so much credit to my wife, Shelley, and all that she’s taken on with all of the employees.
“I know that by far, the good will outweigh the bad, and it’s just nice to know that I have a little more control over my own destiny. Obviously, I’m taking on a lot more responsibility, but with that, I’m sure there will be more gratification. Antron Brown and I were talking about the craziness with all of the off season things you never think about with the payroll, taxes, insurance and just things like that, and we laughed about how at the end of the year, we’ll look back and say ‘man, it was so worth it.’ The gratification from winning that first race as a team owner, and knowing Dean Antonelli and John Medlen and all of the crew, and all of the hard work during the off season that we’ve all done will all be worth it when those big moments happen. Our NAPA team is on their way to testing now, and I’m proud that we pulled it all together in time, and now we get to do the fun part: race to defend our championship.”
Ron and the NAPA Auto Parts team will begin their campaign for a third series title overall, and first for Ron Capps Motorsports, when the 2022 NHRA season kicks off in Pomona, California, February 18th – 20th.