Longtime competitors Capp, Kalitta run hungry for titles at zMax Dragway in Concord

Between them, Ron Capps and Doug Kalitta have 78 victories in more than 800 National Hot Rod Association starts.

They’ve also won zero championships – something Capps and Kalitta hope to change beginning with Sunday’s elimination rounds in the NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMax Dragway.

Kalitta leads the Top Fuel standings entering the first race in the NHRA’s six-event “Countdown to the Championship,” and Capps is a close third in the Funny Car points.

“We’ve led this thing for quite a bit this year,” said Kalitta, who drives for his family’s Kalitta Motorsports team. “Obviously, we’ve got a consistent car. That’s the name of the game out here.”

Kalitta – who finished second in the standings in 2003-04 and 2006 – has led the Top Fuel standings for all but two races this season, thanks in large part to that consistency.

He has only won twice (at Gainesville, Fla., and Seattle), but he has advanced to the final round in nine of 18 races.

“We’ve gotten a few breaks here and there,” said Kalitta, whose 35 wins – including the 2010 NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway – ties him for fourth all-time in Top Fuel with Hall of Famer Don Garlits.

“We’re looking forward to it. It’s going to be fun. I can’t wait to get going. We’re definitely planning on being there late in the day” Sunday.

Capps – who finished second in 1998, 2000, 2005 and 2012 – has been just as consistent on the Funny Car side. He has won twice (at Epping, N.H., and Brainerd, Minn.) in three final-round appearances, but he also has made it as far as the semifinal round in eight other races.

Capps might have the tougher task – ahead of him in the standings are 16-time NHRA champion John Force, still going strong at age 65, and teammate (and son-in-law) Robert Hight, the 2009 champion. Between them, they’ve won eight races (three by Force, five by Hight) and advanced to 17 finals this season.

“You can never count (Force) out, no matter how bad his team’s running,” said Capps, whose 43 Funny Car titles – including the 2012 Carolina Nationals – is tied for second all-time behind Force’s 141 titles.

“All the cars are pretty much set up to run within a few thousandths (of a second) within each other. It’s going to come down to the driver doing his job.”

They’re No. 1: J.R. Todd (Top Fuel), Alexis DeJoria (Funny Car), Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) all earned top qualifier honors after the final timed runs Saturday.

Todd won his first No. 1 qualifier award this season with a run of 3.804 seconds at 317.64 mph, DeJoria won her second with a run of 4.090 seconds at 300.53 mph, Enders-Stevens won her third with run of 6.568 seconds at 210.37 mph, and Krawiec won his seventh No. 1 qualifier award with a run of 6.849 seconds at 194.30 mph.

Back on track: Angelle Sampey-Drago, the winningest female driver in NHRA and auto racing history, announced she will return to the Pro Stock Motorcycle ranks this month with Star Racing after a six-year absence.

Sampey-Drago, 44, won 41 titles – second all-time in Pro Stock Motorcycle behind Dave Schultz’s 45 – and three consecutive NHRA championships (2000-02) between 1996-2008.

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