Don Schumacher Racing’s (DSR) Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat for Ron Capps will have a familiar sponsor for the upcoming 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season, as longtime partner NAPA Auto Parts has extended its contract with the team and the 2016 NHRA Funny Car champion.
As NAPA extends, for a 14th year, into the 2021 NHRA Camping World season, “Our relationship with NAPA is extremely important, and we’re thrilled to continue to fly the NAPA flag,” said team owner Don Schumacher. “They’ve been tremendous supporters of Ron and DSR and we’re very proud to have partnered with them for so many years. We look forward to delivering more wins for NAPA in 2021.”
Capps embarks on his 27th season as a professional drag racer and 17th as a member of the DSR family of teams. “To be going on 14 years with a great sponsor like NAPA Auto Parts is incredible,” he said. “Since these local businesses are essential to the communities and towns across the U.S.,” many independently-owned and operated, “it’s been so gratifying to get to know and represent all of those hardworking people through these many years. I’m proud to continue that tradition into 2021.”
As the team contracts due to the loss of its two “giving” cars and the retirement of Capps’ crew chief Rahn Tobler, owner Don Schumacher only needed to look around his shop to realize he had just the right team to back the California driver in his 2021 quest for a second championship. To tune Capps’ 11,000-horsepower NAPA Dodge throughout the 2021 season, he tapped co-crew chiefs Dean “Guido” Antonelli and John Medlen, who worked together with Jack Beckman the past few years.
The prospect of working with this duo has Capps energized coming into the first full year of Camping World competition. “I’m excited to team up with Guido and John,” the driver said. “Guido and I go way back. In 1995 during my rookie season in Top Fuel, I was also a crew guy on that car and would drive the truck to each event. Guido was a crew guy on [John] Force’s team at the time and he was also a truck driver, so we would follow each other in the trucks from race to race.
“We ended up hanging out quite a bit away from the race track,” Capps reminisced. “As for John Medlen, there is little more that needs to be said. He is someone who is just so knowledgeable and so much fun to be around. And we have familiarity; this won’t be our first time working together: he was my crew chief for a bit back in 2010 and we won Sonoma together that year. It was a very emotional win, given the Medlen family’s history with that track. That win remains one of the highlights of my career.”
After watching the duo’s success with Beckman’s car, where Antonelli and Medlen have recorded nine victories since becoming DSR co-crew chiefs in 2017, Capps is “extremely confident that the NAPA Dodge will be parked in the winner’s circle very early in the season,” he added.
Antonelli spoke for the crew chief duo: “Ron has been both a fierce opponent and great teammate, and now we have the privilege of having him wheel our hot rod,” he said. “It means the world to John and myself to have been selected to be part of the NAPA family. We had a pretty good car last year with Jack (Beckman), but left a little on the table. We have made a few changes in the off-season to get that ‘last little bit’ so we can make sure we’re running for the championship this year.”
NAPA’s blue and yellow branding continues on Capps’ hot rod in 2021, but this year’s livery is special as design details were chosen by fans via social media. “One of the coolest things was having NAPA ask me to help design our paint scheme back in 2019. It’s not very often a driver gets to be involved in the design process, and we had a lot of fun with it. Well, they asked me to do it again this year, and I actually took it one step further and posted some of the design options, asking fans to help me choose our paint schemes. The response was overwhelming and I’m excited for the fans to see our car for the firs time since they had a hand in designing it. I think it looks awesome!”
“NAPA is excited to be starting our 14th season as the primary sponsor for DSR and Ron Capps,” noted Kevin Herron, president of US Automotive. “Having a team and brand ambassador like Ron Capps, who understands our business, our employees and our customers, makes them a valuable resource in helping to build upon the 95 years of NAPA brand equity. We’re looking forward to great success on and off the track in 2021.”
The 330-mph NAPA Dodge and Ron Capps earned two victories during the abbreviated 11-race 2020 NHRA season, shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ll be looking to add to Don Schumacher Racing’s current undefeated Funny Car streak of 14 consecutive victories when the season kicks off next month at the 52nd annual Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla. March 12-14. Capps, Antonelli and Medlen will hit the track together for the first time at the pre-season Winter Warmup test session in West Palm Beach, March 5-8.