Autoweek NHRA Insider Ron Capps' blog: Picking Oscar winners and finding that perfect clutch disc

(Editor's note: This is the third in a series of exclusive Autoweek blogs from NHRA Funny Car driver and 2016 champion Ron Capps. Capps continued his 2019 season this past weekend at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix. At Phoenix, Capps qualified ninth before losing to John Force in the first round of eliminations on Sunday. Capps, who left Sunday's eliminations ninth in the standings after two race weekends, also had one eye on the Academy Awards. After all, he's a card-carrying member of the Screen Actors Guild and an awards voter. And, yes, he had "Green Book" winning Best Picture.)

The Screen Actors Guild. I had been in a movie years ago. I played a mean, evil, cowboy in a movie called "The Legend of Booger Red." No, it didn't win anything. In fact, I think I bought every copy in the world so nobody could see it — it was pretty bad acting.  (Ed. note: We found one on eBay this week for $28.) And doing a lot of commercials, especially early on with the NAPA program, we did a lot of national commercials that got me into the Screen Actors Guild. That’s kind of how it started.

And I’ve done some movies and different things. The cool thing about it every year is getting these movies sent to me to screen them and then vote. Award time is always fun for me and the family because we get the movies that are actually in the theater, and we get to sit and watch them at home. 

The cool thing was, "Green Book" was my pick this year for Best Picture. Of all the movies, I thought that movie should have won, so that was pretty cool. My wife laughs at me because I critique some things that I know from just being on the set. When you're on camera and you have to memorize something at the same time and have to portray something else — It’s not easy to do. I have a whole new respect when I watch people do scenes. I sit and watch movies with a different view. "Green Book" was a feel-good movie. Just a good movie.

Today (Monday), we're back testing at Phoenix. Maybe we were hurt a little by not attending preseason testing, but today, we focused on bringing out a brand-new car we had built over the winter. My crew chief, Rahn Tobler, is always very well prepared for anything that goes wrong.

One time, I went into the sand, in the net, and I got trapped upside down — I think it was 2016 at Indianapolis — and wrecked the car. The chutes didn’t open. We brought out another car and then we actually went quicker with the backup car. It was quicker the very first time it had run down the track. What we like to do is we’ll take a brand-new car, make some runs with it, and we’ll put it away upstairs and it will be ready to run. And when I say ready to run, it’s ready to run — everything completely ready to go. That’s kind of our focus today. 


At the same time, we are trying some clutch disks. For the casual NHRA spectator, clutch discs with these 11,000-hp engines are probably the most important part of the tuneup for a crew chief. Everybody today makes about 11,000 hp, but trying to transfer that horsepower to those Goodyear tires, to keep them stuck, you have to slide the clutch and slip it through these five discs in the clutch. 

Drivers in the Top Fuel and Funny Car categories, we don’t shift. A lot of people think we might shift these cars. We just step on the gas and come out and try to keep it straight. Everything is pretty set as far as the clutch. Today, we are focusing on trying to test some new clutch discs that we’ve got. Every clutch disc has its own personality, so it’s important for a crew chief to find a clutch disc that he likes and have five of them in the car that you can trust are going to do the same thing every time. 

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