Antron Brown gears up for his run at Houston Raceway Park. (NHRA photo)

Capps & Brown: A Review Of Year One As Team Owners

To drive an 11,000-horsepower, nitro-burning machine in NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series competition is one thing.

To find success while chasing a championship as both a driver and first-year team owner is another.

But despite battling the sleepless nights that inevitably come with team ownership, Funny Car’s Ron Capps and Top Fuel’s Antron Brown faced the risks head-on and forged their way through.

“Yeah, I’ve been out there as a driver, but nobody knew if I was going to make it half a year. I didn’t know what I was doing. We just kind of treaded water and did what we could,” Capps admitted.

One year ago, Capps knew he wanted to be a team owner, but the details were hazy.

Capps, who had just won his second Funny Car title for team owner Don Schumacher, was looking to set out on his own. The key to the formation of Ron Capps Motorsports came when NAPA Auto Parts, which had been his sponsor for the previous 14 years, committed to continuing that relationship.

Ron Capps announced his new team, Ron Capps Motorsports, in November of 2021. (NHRA photo)

Though a majority of crew members — including crew chiefs Dean “Guido” Antonelli and John Medlen — also moved over from Don Schumacher Racing, the uncomfortable realities involved with being a team owner hit Capps as hard as they would anyone else.

“I had heard about it, I thought I had what it took to go through it, but I had a lot of people I had to lean on,” Capps said. “It was just a whirlwind.”

Capps relied on the wisdom of Schumacher, Rick Hendrick and Don Prudhomme leading into to the season and, once racing commenced, he often commiserated with fellow first-year team owner Brown. In April, Capps’ program was boosted when Toyota Racing lent its support, including the new Toyota GR Supra body, to the effort.

“It was life-changing for them to take a chance on somebody with a new team,” Capps said. “I broke down on that Zoom call with [Toyota], because I knew I needed somebody to be a part of what we were doing.”

With a deep bench of supporters, partners and crew surrounding him, Capps raced to five victories and clinched his third Funny Car championship during the Auto Club NHRA Finals.

“To win the first year … I didn’t feel like I deserved it,” Capps said. “A lot of moments, I was like ‘Man, am I going to be able to pull this off?’ And here we are. I did.”

Of course, as Brown will tell you, it’s not an easy road to travel. And the odds were certainly stacked against the Top Fuel veteran when he decided to build a team from the ground up and invest his life savings into the operation.

“The biggest thing is the financials. And you’ve got some people who don’t have that problem because they’re successful in other realms. For us, this is our business,” Brown said with a nervous laugh. “Antron Brown did not hit the lottery and say, ‘Hey, let’s go racing.’ Antron Brown did not have somebody going, ‘Here, just take this three or four million bucks and use this to start your race team.’ We didn’t have that.”

It was a gamble on himself and the potential of AB Motorsports, but Brown was driven to do something “his way” after three years of entertaining the idea. Having been on teams with absent owners in the past, Brown felt the need to create a program where he could be “in the trenches” and involved with the day-to-day operations — a strategy that he employed from day one at ABM.

With AB Motorsports, Antron Brown made more than 35 laps of testing throughout the season. (NHRA photo)

Brown and his crew chiefs, Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald, began the year with the goal of qualifying for the Countdown to the Championship. With the six-race playoffs including a major reset of the points, in Brown’s mind, they had 16 races to dial in the dragster and still be in the title hunt during the final stretch.

As a testament to their dedication to success, the team made more than 35 laps of testing throughout the season. 

“This year, our success wasn’t just because we showed up,” Brown said. “We stayed after races because we were struggling and needed to figure out why things were happening.”

ABM spent more than $350,000 testing, but to Brown the end result was worth it.

Brown and his team earned three victories in the season’s final stretch — including one at the prestigious U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park — and closed their 2022 chapter as the runner-up in the Top Fuel championship.

Beyond the reward of watching their dreams come true before their eyes, as Brown and Capps affectionally look back on their debut season as team owners, they remain grateful for the people who helped carry the weight.

“[Capps] will tell you ‘A.B. helped me,’ but he helped me in so many ways too, because we were able to lean on each other and ease each other through these times,” Brown said. “The load got really heavy, but to us, it showed us what we’re made of.”