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Wed, 17 May 2017, 10:37 AM

Reigning Funny Car World Champ Ron Capps is Red Hot Approaching 29th Annual Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties
Courtesy of NHRA Communications
Photo copyright 2017 NHRA/National Dragster

TOPEKA, Kan. --

Ron Capps celebrates Atlanta win.
In a class full of star competitors and breathtaking performances, Funny Car's Ron Capps has managed to stand out in an impressive way over the past mounth.

Coming off his first Funny Car world championship, Capps hasn't let down one bit, taking over the points lead in his 10,000-horsepower NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T by winning three straight races. That gives him considerable momentum heading into this weekend's 29th annual Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties at Heartland Park Topeka, where Capps will look to keep his remarkable run going against a class full of worthy challengers.

"Funny Car is just getting tougher and tougher," said Capps, a three-time winner at Topeka. "In the past, you've had people say you don't want to peak too soon, but I don't think it matters anymore. What you're seeing is (crew chief) Rahn Tobler and his preparation. He is like that all the time. I've seen it and I've been with him, so I've known it, and it's just cool to see it all come to fruition. When he gets a handle on something, I wouldn't want to race against the NAPA car, I know that."

Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) were last year's winners of a race will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including a live broadcast of the finals on Sunday, May 21 at 2 p.m. (ET). The race is the eighth of 24 events during the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, and Capps is clearly taking his title defense seriously.

Capps celebrates Charlotte win.
He already has four final round appearances this season, posting wins over three consecutive weekends in Houston, Charlotte and Atlanta. While Capps' driving continues to be superb, knocking off Tim Wilkerson in the final round in Atlanta on a holeshot, he remains thoroughly impressed with the strides his team has made this season after winning the championship.

"I've got such a great team right now," said Capps, who has 53 career Funny Car victories. "The car speaks for itself lately. Rahn Tobler and Eric (Lane, assistant crew chief), those two together are the dynamic duo. It's so fun to watch the approach they have and think about what's going to happen next. I'm able to sit in there, put my firesuit on, and listen to what they're doing and know what the car is going to do because of how they're speaking. "

Everyone is in tune thus far, but Capps knows keeping his torrid pace will be difficult against a host of top challengers. That includes his Don Schumacher Racing teammate and defending event winner Hagan, who posted victories at the first two races of 2017, as well as 16-time world champion John Force, Robert Hight, Courtney Force, and Tommy Johnson Jr.

Capps, though, has confidence in what his team is capable of, something that was only further validated during his championship campaign a year ago. Following a 2016 season marked with consistency and five victories, the Funny Car veteran also knows his team is motivated to accomplish even more, starting with a possible fourth win at Heartland Park Topeka this weekend.

"The ones we came close, we just didn't have those little breaks go our way in the (Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship)," Capps said. "It just didn't happen. But it was well worth the wait and it showed we could do it. We did it without winning a race in the Countdown and that showed the consistency you have to have in NHRA Funny Car."

Kalitta's Top Fuel victory a year ago capped off a stretch of three straight wins, but he'll be challenged by points leader and three-time 2017 winner Leah Pritchett, Brittany Force, back-to-back world champion Antron Brown, and Steve Torrence, who has won two straight races.

Capps celebrates Houston win.
Line's Pro Stock win helped fuel his third Pro Stock championship and he'll face off against 2017 winners Shane Gray, points leader Greg Anderson, Chris McGaha, Bo Butner and Tanner Gray.

The NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series makes the fifth of 12 stops in 2017 at Heartland Park Topeka. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. After Nitro qualifying on Friday, fans can watch the spectacular Larsen Motorsports jet dragsters sponsored by Florida Tech and Matrix System as well. Jet cars are thrust driven vehicles propelled by jet engines with exciting pre-run flame shows.

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 and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.

Fans also will want to visit NHRA's popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.

Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May 19 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, May 20, at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 21.

To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visit Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate.

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