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NHRA: Funny Car driver Ron Capps off to great start in 2016 after Pomona win

O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals Qualifying

CONCORD, NC - SEPTEMBER 18: Ron Capps, driver of the NAPA Funny Car prepares for his run during qualifying for the 2010 O’Reilly Parts NHRA Nationals at zMax Dragway on September 18, 2010 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images)

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Ron Capps wanted to give his wife the perfect Valentine’s Day gift.

And at the same time, the Southern California Funny Car driver wanted to give himself something special on the big day – but in a different manner: on the race track.

So Capps combined both his gift list and wish list and came away with a win in Sunday’s final round of the NHRA season-opening Circle K Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.

“Now I can give the Wally (race-winning trophy) to my wife for Valentine’s Day,” Capps said of Shelley, who attended with their children Taylor and Caden, who drove up from their home in Carlsbad, near San Diego.

As for Capps, his 45th career Funny Car win – and third career triumph at Pomona, all in the Winternationals – not only solidified his hold on second-most wins in that category, it also got him and his NAPA-sponsored Don Schumacher Racing team off on the right foot.

“I have the best team in the business and they gave me a great racecar,” Capps said.

“There’s no holeshot win without having the car we did. All four runs in the 3’s (seconds) in qualifying, I don’t think anyone else did that. I was quietly looking at that. I knew we had a good racecar.

“Tobler (crew chief Rahn Tobler) and I have grown so much together. It’s like a marriage. He really keeps me in line on race day. We had a heck of a day.”

Now, it’s a matter of one race down and 23 to go for Capps to potentially earn the championship.

“I can’t wait to get this season going,” Capps said. “You wonder if you are ever going to see one of these (race winner trophies) again. I am racing (2015 NHRA Funny Car champ) Del Worsham in the final, who is one of the best. We threw down. What a race. Just to know we can get in the winner’s circle and get another Wally feels good.”

Although Worsham was slightly quicker in the overall run (3.978 seconds to Capps’ 3.981), Capps won with a great break at the starting line and with greater speed (324.28 mph to Worsham’s 321.81).

In a sense, Capps put pressure on his NAPA teammate, NASCAR Sprint Cup champ Chase Elliott, who will sit on the pole for this Sunday’s 58th running of NASCAR’s Daytona 500.

“I’m like aw, man, I was going to tweet him and say ‘way to put the pressure on, man’ but I didn’t want to jinx ourselves,” Capps said of Elliott. “As we kept going further in the day I thought ‘man, how cool would it be to have the NAPA guys have the pole at the Daytona race and here winning Pomona at the other end of the country.

“There’s a lot of pressure when you’re given a great car like I have with the NAPA guys. You’re the last piece of that puzzle. It’s sort of like ‘hey, everything’s good, here ya go’ and you do not want to mess it up. It’s nice when you don’t mess it up.”

Capps and the rest of the NHRA national tour are off this weekend before next week’s race at Wild Horse Motorsports Park near Phoenix, Arizona.

Interestingly, just like he’s now won three times at Pomona, Capps – who leads the Funny Car points standings by 22 points over Worsham – has three career wins to date at the Phoenix track.

Might the Capps lightning strike again?

Follow @JerryBonkowski