Just days after clinching the 2022 NHRA Funny Car title, Ron Capps confirmed part of the recent speculation regarding his future of racing in the sport and announced he will not be returning to Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) after 17-years with the team. He made an emotional announcement on social media on Saturday evening, reaching out to his fan base.
“Yesterday was my last day at Don Schumacher Racing. It’s been an incredible 17 years. I went there to join my buddy [Gary] Scelzi and have had the best teammates and sponsors throughout the years I could ever ask for,” said Capps. “There is a lot of NHRA Wally’s scattered throughout the house and we’ve raised a lot of NHRA championship banners up at the DSR shop.”
“The best part though, without question has been the people I’ve been lucky enough to be around for the last 17 years. From Don Schumacher and his wonderful family, management, our great people at the track with us, the front office group, the hospitality people, the fab shop, and of course all the team members past and present and their families. Thank you everyone at DSR for [an] incredible ride.”
Capps announced later that he would have news about his future in the sport on Thursday, December 9th. Rumors have circling within the sport that Capps may join, teammate Antron Brown who announced he would not return earlier this year to pilot DSR’s only Toyota-backed Top Fuel ride and would instead start his own Top Fuel team (Antron Brown Racing).
But Capps and Brown aren’t the only ones who have announced that they are leaving DSR after 2021. Three-time NASCAR Cup Champion Tony Stewart announced he would field two NHRA entries in 2022 under his Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) banner. His two drivers, DSR’s Top Fuel pilot, and now his wife Leah Pruett (yes, Leah and “Smoke” got married this past weekend in Mexico, video of the event was posted by IndyCar driver Marco Andretti who attended) and three-time NHRA Funny Car Champion and cattle rancher Matt Hagan.
Pruett and Hagan have been the biggest ambassadors for the Dodge and Mopar brands in the sport. With Dodge//SRT and Mopar continuing to expand their efforts in drag racing, Capps’ move away from DSR may have cemented a possible partnership between the Detroit automaker and the TSR NHRA operation.
It was announced that Matt Hagan’s team would make the move with him to TSR during the Pomona broadcast.
Currently, DSR only has one driver confirmed for the 2022 season and that is Schumacher’s son nine-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher returning to competition full-time. DSR, who once fielded 9 entries in NHRA top-series, is now down to only one after losing sponsorships for two of their Funny Car entries from Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson, Jr. in 2020.
Johnson did fill in for Hagan when he came down with COVID and won a race with his team this season. Beckman has been out of a Funny Car since 2020 but has been wanting to return to competition. There has been no word if either driver would rejoin DSR in 2022.
Don Schumacher who owns the team that bears his name, also recently sold his company Schumacher Electric Corporation (SEC) in October 2020. Over 70 years, SEC had become a leader in the design and manufacturing of power supplies, battery chargers, jumpstarters, and transformer testers in North America across several industries. Several of the drivers including Antron Brown, Matt Hagan, and Leah Pruett have said that Don has given them his blessing with their new ventures. So it could mean that DSR could fall back to a one-car team with Tony in 2022.
This would leave Dodge and Mopar looking for a team and TSR has a lot of familiar faces.
Rumors have also been circulating that if Dodge were to join TSR, it could prove to be a solid footing to return to NASCAR. Stewart who co-owns Stewart-Haas Racing in NASCAR’s top series with CNC-mogul Gene Haas could offer the manufacturer the best option for a return to stock car racing.
Dodge got out of NASCAR racing after the 2012 season (and winning the Cup Championship with driver Brad Keselowski), after Penske Racing switched to Ford-sponsorship when SRT Motorsports led by Ralph Gilles refused to sign a multi-year agreement with the team. It left Dodge without a team to drive its all-new 2013 Dodge Charger stock car.
Earlier this month at Phoenix Raceway, NASCAR President Steve Phelps held a “State of the Sport” address to inform the public about the direction NASCAR is heading towards going into the 2022 season. Taking questions, Phelps was asked about recent rumors about Dodge and other manufacturers entering the sport.
“Our three existing OEMs are happy about that,” Phelps said. “Our race teams are happy about that. We’re happy about that. It’s been widely rumored that Dodge is one of those or closest. I won’t confirm or deny that. It is important. We’ve made no bones about the fact that we want to have a new OEM in our sport. I think we got delayed with the pandemic.”
“With that said, we are an attractive place I believe for OEMs to come into the sport. Now is an important opportunity for them to do that because of the Next-Gen car. I also believe the fact that the sport is growing and has a relevance that it hasn’t had in decades is causing some real interest from other OEMs,” he concluded.
Going back to NHRA competition, it leaves the third place in the Funny Car points Cruz Pedregon and his Snap-On Tools team as the only confirmed Dodge NHRA team for 2022 at the moment. Pedregon won twice this past season (Norwalk and Las Vegas), thanks to the help of his new crew who moved over from Tommy Johnson’s DSR entry after a sponsorship couldn’t be found.
In a recent interview with Ralph Sheheen of SpeedSport TV (shown above), Stewart officially said that we could start hearing about sponsorships for his NHRA teams starting at the 33rd Annual 2021 Performance Racing Industry (PRI) show at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. The event kicks off Thursday, December 9th, and goes through Saturday, December 11th. Will Dodge be there to announce a partnership?
It wouldn’t be TSR’s first run with Mopar-backing as the team ran in the early-2000s in USAC National Sprint Car Series with a pair of Mopar-sponsored entries, including a very successful 2003 season with NASCAR veteran J.J. Yeley behind the wheel.
December 9th looks to be an important date for the Dodge/Mopar NHRA fans as we should find out about the future of Ron Capps and the TSR teams for 2022.
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