With his third championship in top-fuel already clinched, drag racer Antron Brown had some calming advice for Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps, who’s on the precipice of his first funny car title at this weekend’s Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona: Take a deep breath and enjoy the moment.
“He knows what to do. He’s just got to go out and live it now,” Brown said.
Capps enters the NHRA season finale with a solid 86-point advantage over another Don Schumacher teammate, Matt Hagan. He has 50 career victories over his 22 years as a pro, but until he has officially eliminated Hagan, Capps will take nothing for granted.
“A lot of people are saying it’s sewn up, even on our team, and I just keep holding my hand out going, ‘No, stop; stop thinking that way,’ ” Capps said.
Pomona is an important venue for Capps, who grew up in Southern California and won the 2016 Winternationals season opener there as well. He’s already gotten dozens of phone calls from friends and family asking for tickets, but that isn’t adding any unwanted pressure.
“That’s always been a big deal for me is to make sure I’ve got everybody covered,” Capps said. “I get the biggest applause and people yelling. It’s just such a killer feeling.”
To hold off Hagan, Capps will need to rack up a few qualifying position points and avoid an early exit in the opening elimination rounds. His friend Brown already won the top-fuel category with a strong performance in Las Vegas at the end of October, but he’ll still be racing at Pomona after a close second-place finish last year.
“We were sore that we lost,” Brown said. “That’s one that we let slip away from us for sure.”
Meanwhile, there are tighter competitions in other categories — Jason Line and Greg Anderson are separated by 19 points in pro stock, while Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec are tied in pro stock motorcycle and Jerry Savoie is just three points behind.
“If we can make our way through competition on Sunday, qualify well … and match up in the final round for all the marbles, that would be a dream come true,” Anderson said.
Since joining the National Hot Rod Assn. in 1998, Anderson has four titles to his name but has been on a dry spell since 2010 — and serious health issues in 2014 threatened to end his career.
“I’ve gone through a heart reconstruction, heart surgery and had questions in my mind if I’d ever be able to do this again,” Anderson said. “I remember laying in the hospital bed after getting my aortic valve replaced and hearing the doctors talk like I’d probably never race.
“It’s been two years to build my way back to the top, and now I’ve got that chance — kind of a second lease on life, a second lease on drag racing. And I really want to make the most of it. [A championship at Pomona] would probably make it the most special one yet.”
Auto Club NHRA Finals
Where: Auto Club Raceway at Pomona
When: Friday through Sunday
Friday: Pro Stock/Nitro qualifying rounds begin at noon Pacific
Saturday: Pro Stock/Nitro qualifying rounds begin at noon
Sunday: Pre-race ceremonies begin at 9:45 a.m. Elimination rounds begin at 11 a.m.
Defending winners: Shawn Langdon, top fuel; Del Worsham, funny car; Allen Johnson, pro stock; Eddie Krawiec, pro stock motorcycle
Ticket information available at www.NHRA.com/tickets