Ron Capps awoke Saturday and promptly saw his phone was "lit up" with calls and text messages, he said. "I thought maybe something bad had happened."
What had happened the day before certainly wasn't good. A day earlier, the 7,000-horsepower engine on Capps' 300-mph
Pieces of the engine flew off, as did the top of the car's carbon-fiber body, leaving a shaken Capps exposed as the car rolled to a stop.
"You go from a car that's all dark [inside] and then you're [driving] a convertible," he said.
Capps was not hurt but sore from what he called "the concussion" of the explosion.
"I'm good," he said before Saturday's qualifying rounds for the Circle K Winternationals, the season-opening event of the National Hot Rod Assn.'s premier Mello Yello Series. "I actually slept good."
He suffered a similar explosion in a race last August in Brainerd, Minn., but "this one took longer for me to get my bearings," Capps said.
Capps, 48, is entering his 20th season in drag racing's big leagues, and the Carlsbad resident is one of the most successful funny car racers in history with 40 career victories, including three last year.
But Capps has not won a championship, finishing second in the title standings four times, most recently in 2012.
Capps said there were years when "an urgency would come over me" that he needed to win a championship to crown his career, but that those feelings have ebbed.
"I've done so much already, if I don't [win a title] I'm cool, I really am," he said.
Funny cars and top-fuel dragsters, the NHRA's other 300-mph class, hold races 1,000 feet long. The explosion on Capps' car Friday occurred at the 803-foot mark, virtually at top speed.
And that speed was exceptionally fast. Despite hitting the finish line with half a car, Capps' run was 4.014 seconds at 304.67 mph, fifth-fastest among the 16 cars in Sunday's final eliminations. (He didn't top that speed in Saturday's qualifying runs.)
In the NHRA's other elite class, top fuel, Doug Kalitta was the top qualifier with a run Saturday of 3.713 seconds at 327.98 mph.
Alexis DeJoria makes history
Alexis DeJoria became the first woman in NHRA drag-racing history to make a run of under four seconds in a funny car with a pass of 3.997 seconds at 318.32 mph.
That was the quickest time for a female funny car driver since the NHRA went to 1,000-foot races for funny cars and top-fuel dragsters in mid-2008. Her time was the third fastest in the field.
This is the third full season for DeJoria, 36, daughter of billionaire John Paul DeJoria. He's the chief executive of the Paul Mitchell hair-care products company and tequila maker Patron Spirits, the latter being a major sponsor of Alexis DeJoria's dragster.