CAPPS FAMILY RACING
Just the Three of Us
SHE’S 21 YEARS OLD, HAS BEEN RACING THE HEARTBREAKER ALTERED ROADSTER FOR LESS THAN 24 MONTHS, AND HAS ALREADY WON TWO NHRA WALLYS. Could it be the genes? Sabrina Capps burst onto the nostalgia drag racing scene in late 2015 after successfully competing in NHRA’s Junior Dragster program. Her dad, Mark Capps, has been a regular participant at drag strips throughout the west for more than 30 years. Sabrina’s emergence is not the usual scenario whereby dad turns the wheel over to his daughter. Both are going full bore, each competing in NHRA’s Heritage Series; Mark in C/G and Sabrina in Nostalgia Eliminator 1. He also races the same class with the American Nostalgia Racing Association (ANRA) and Sabrina in A/G with the West Coast Pro Gas Association. Together, they have won four Wallys in less than two years. To race two cars in different classes in three associations is a near Herculean feat.
For Sabrina and Mark to compete in the NHRA Heritage Series on the same weekend, extraordinary planning, physical and mental endurance, some fortuitous scheduling, and mom’s oversight are required. Mom is Diana Capps, wife and mother—the motor that makes this operation go. Together, the three of them, successful and inseparable, are Capps Family Racing.
Mark started racing in 1983, albeit it on the street. Mark remembers, “I was doing the illegal stuff all over the county, winning races and pocketing a lot of money. I was just a kid, fresh out of high school. After high school, I enrolled in the automotive program at Fresno City College, earned all my certificates, and worked as a mechanic for years.” Mark eventually opened his own business, Capps Mustang (later Mustang Ranch), specializing in restoring old Ford Mustangs. “We started with $1,500, right about the time Sabrina was born in 1995. It's been pretty much a family endeavor, with Sabrina doing her fair share of the work along the way. kIn 2003, I started doing a lot more sanctioned racing as opposed to the street stuff. Sabrina was participating in Junior Dragster, it just made more sense for safety and other reasons.” Mark found a home with ANRA, winning many races in C/G with a '67 Mustang. He also captured two C/G titles in both West Coast Hot Rod and West Coast Pro Gas associations.
I was doing the illegal stuff all over the county, winning races and pocketing a lot of money. I was just a kid, fresh out of high school. After high school, I enrolled in the automotive program at Fresno City College, earned all my certificates, and worked as a mechanic for years.
When Sabrina was old enough to race a big car, Mark decided to get out of the driver's seat. He recalls, “I retired, I thought, to let Sabrina race the Mustang. But, I got talked into driving the About Time blown and injected dragster. When Sabrina stepped up to
NE-1 in 2015, I went back to Sabrina's Magic, the name we gave the Mustang when Sabrina was four.”
The time away from the Mustang did not affect Mark's driving acumen; he scored two Wallys in 2016. “Success in this class at this level requires a tremendous amount of cunning and concentration. The staging process is particularly critical to winning the race. Opponents are going to play a mind game with you. You do the same and had better be good at it,” Mark explained the Machiavellian maneuvering by drivers.
“But win or lose, I will always congratulate the other racer. Good sportsmanship is equally as important to us as winning.”
Like father like daughter seems to be apropos here. Sabrina excelled in the Junior Dragster program, twice earning runnerup honors at the ANRA championships at Famoso Raceway. The energetic 21-year-old nursing student is not lacking confidence. Sabrina offers this about herself, “I know I am really good at what
I do. I think I have been successful in the sport because of experience, commitment and my family. I have always worked on my race cars from the time I had the junior dragster, and I believe that experience has made me a better driver. I always try my hardest, and my mom and dad taught me that sportsmanship is just as important as winning. Everybody is going to have an off day now and then, but if you believe in yourself, the wins are going to come.”
So, what is next for the altered roadster driver? “I've gone 185 mph, but I want to go faster. I want to get licensed in a nostalgia nitro Funny Car—that is my dream race car— even an NHRA Big Show Funny Car if the opportunity arises. I love being in the seat and just going down the track. I am proud of my accomplishments so far, but I want to get behind the wheel of a nitro-burning race car.”
Racing two cars at the same event is no easy feat. The cars are usually on a strict qualifying schedule, and turnaround time between them can make for a mad dash back to the staging lanes to prepare the second race car. When just three people are servicing two race cars, things can get frenetic. Then come eliminations, and as eliminations progress, the interval between rounds gets shorter. This is where multi-tasking mom's contributions really kick in. Not only does Diana handle the pre-race preparations (food, beverages, gear, etc.),
but once at the track, she monitors the weather station, dials-in the Deadenbear throttle stops, and gets Mark and Sabrina ready to race. Once it’s time to pull up into the staging lanes, Diana’s job can get hectic. Nevertheless, it’s a routine she has down pat. Diana says, “First, I suit up Mark and Sabrina. I help Mark with his helmet, shoulder belts and gloves. I kiss him, put up the window net and give him an ‘I love you’ sign. With Sabrina, I help her suit up and secure the seatbelts the way a mom knows is safe. Once she is in the race car and belted, we say a prayer and I give her some reassuring words before Mark pulls her into the water box. Then, I scoot down the track so I can back her up, pull her into the beam, exchange familiar gestures, and let her stage.” This is repeated so long as dad and daughter are competing. As Mark says, “We run her to death; I don’t know a lot of teams doing it.” Oh yeah, Diana also takes out engines and transmissions when needed. She is the crew chief. That’s Capps Family Racing and they are darn good— just the three of them.
“Spartan” best describes the roadster’s very functional cockpit.
A Steve Schmidt big-block GM Pro Stock motor functions quite nicely in its new home.
The NE-1 roadster’s Heart Breaker moniker is quite accurate. Sabrina Capps has crushed the dreams of many a competitor.
BELOW. What would the owner of Mustang Ranch, a vintage Mustang restoration company, race? Obviously, it has to be the vehicle that ignited Detroit’s Pony Car revolution.
It’s Blue Oval all the way for Capps. The engine is a 565-ci 460 Ford sports block, built by Ric Fauset of Fauset Racing Engines.
Similar to the roadster’s interior, the Mustang is all business and light on creature comforts.
Team Capps (L to R): Dad Mark, Sabrina and Mom Diana