Manufacturer deal gives Funny Car champ Capps chance to bend the ears of some new stablemates for advice.
We were chomping at the bit to announce our deal with Toyota.
It was very exciting, knowing that they had the new body in the works. But to finally get it out and debut the Supra at the Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte a few weeks ago, that was huge for us in a lot of different ways.
I bragged about a big part of this whole new venture of owning my own team was having a manufacturer that wanted to be all-in as a partner and teammate. You have to remember for the last 17 years, I drove for a team and team owner Don Schumacher where most of the time I had several teammates right in our camp, in fact right next door.
So, as a new team owner/driver with a one-car team, I haven’t really had a teammate per se this year, although we are pitted in the same spot next to DSR. But up until our Toyota announcement at Charlotte, I haven’t had that same feeling like I’ve got teammates. At DSR over the past decade, there were times when we had four Funny Cars running out of our camp, so I had three teammates that I had to battle every week and also for a championship. And so the cool thing about finally getting the word out at Charlotte about the Toyota Supra was gaining new teammates at Toyota that I now have, especially in Funny Car.
Alexis DeJoria helped welcome Ron Capps into the Toyota stable.
Obviously, I’ve got a great running car in the Supra, but the cool thing was the help we got from JR Todd’s Toyota team—I’ve always been really close with that team, their crew chiefs. Then there’s the other Toyota Funny Car driver, Alexis DeJoria. Del Worsham runs that team and I’ve been really close with Alexis and Del. Crew chiefs Jon Oberhofer and Nicky Boninfante were huge in us unloading the car, too.
You have to remember, I had never even sat in the Supra before, and here we are debuting it at a huge media event on Thursday of the Charlotte race. I had never even sat in this car. Our crew chiefs had never run this car down the track, and then we put the Supra body on it and went 3.87 seconds, over 330 mph, the very first run. I can’t tell you how hard that is to do. They made it look easy.
The input we’ve had from our new teammates and Slugger Labbe and the all the people at Toyota was huge, and not just for me as a driver. I did talk to JR and Alexis, as the new car is different to see out of than what I’m used to.
The cool part was seeing the input from Del Worsham and the DHL team in making us feel at ease in taking the car out for the very first run, knowing that all eyes were on us. We had a great car already, but now Supra is on the car and we certainly didn’t want to disappoint. So that was immense pressure I felt. Our crew chief Guido Antonelli said he didn’t feel the pressure, but I think he was lying a little bit.
JR Todd and crew proved to be a big help to Ron Capps and company when it came time for Capps to roll out his Toyota Supra.
Richard H Shute
Sharing Only Goes So Far
When it comes to sharing information with teammates and other teams, even if they’re from the same manufacturer, you have to remember that we also have to race these other teams.
It’s very difficult for a crew chief to sometimes share information with a rival crew chief. Drivers, we we can go up and do our thing. If somebody came to me for advice or if I went to another driver with a question, they’re going to offer it up—even though you’re kind of gritting your teeth because you have to race this person and your livelihood is on the line.
It’s even even more difficult mechanically for a crew chief. Yes you want to help—or maybe some don’t want to help. That certainly happens. But it was a big deal for Del Worsham and Jon Oberhofer from both those Toyota teams to offer up a calming affect to our guys Guido and John Medlen before those very first runs.
This Supra is just so different from anything we’ve seen. There hasn’t been a change to the style of the Funny Car in many, many years. And so that was a big deal for the other teams to offer a little help—even though we have to race them. It’s hard for a crew chief to do that, I don’t care what they say. On Sunday, they’ve got to bite the bullet. I can understand their position. They’ve been massaging and working with this body all season to make it what it is, and then all of the sudden here comes the new team.
Teammates in racing can be a very strange relationship. It’s kind of like a brotherly thing. Yes, you want to outdo your brother, you want to make your dad proud. So you can understand that it’s a very tough thing to do—to share information and enjoy being teammates. But at the same time, you have go up to the starting line and you’ve got to do whatever you have to do to beat them.
And sometimes you don’t get along with teammates—you hear about that in all forms of motorsport or in any sport, for that matter. You’ve got football teams with two wide receivers. Well, they can act like they’re getting along great, but I guarantee that one wants to outdo the other one every game. You can say what you want. It’s friendly, It’s a rivalry, whatever.
The cool thing is that I’ve gained two teammates that I’ve already gotten along great with. Alexis Dejoia and JR—these are people I would hang out with away from the racetrack.
Now that we’re teammates and the Toyota news is out, it’s really cool to be able to finally go back to hanging out with teammates again.