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NAPA Funny Car Team Continues to Adjust to New Setup in Chicago

Three-time NHRA Funny Car world champion Ron Capps was looking forward to adding a third Wally trophy from Route 66 Raceway to his impressive collection on Sunday at the NHRA Route 66 Nationals, but a loss of traction in the first round of eliminations ended his bid for a 77th national event triumph.
 
The NAPA AutoCare Funny Car team battled tricky track conditions throughout Friday and Saturday’s qualifying sessions to secure a spot in the top half of the field. Crew chief Dean ‘Guido’ Antonelli tuned Capps’ 12,000 horsepower Toyota GR Supra to a 3.939-second at 327.90 MPH pass during Friday’s second session, which held up to be sixth quickest in a loaded 18-car field. Despite earning a favorable qualifying position, Capps found himself facing a heavy hitter in the first round of eliminations with a matchup versus fellow multi-time world champ, No. 11 qualifier Matt Hagan. The former Don Schumacher Racing teammates lined up for NHRA’s Marquee Matchup of the race, but this time it was all Hagan as he led from start to finish as Capps’ machine started to lose traction near the 660-foot markers.
 
“It’s strange to qualify No. 6 and have a team like Hagan’s first round, but it was just one of those weekends,” said Capps, who advanced to the final round and captured his first Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge win at Route 66 Raceway one year prior. “A race like this where the temperatures are high and everyone’s battling track conditions, you look around, and there were some really, really, good teams in Top Fuel and Funny Car struggling.”
 
While Capps has already advanced to two semifinals so far in 2024, he is the first to admit that the team’s performance isn’t what fans are used to seeing out of the championship-winning NAPA team, which had only two first-round losses throughout the entirety of the 15-race 2023 ‘regular season.’
 
“I’ve been very transparent with the fans about how we’re trying to get ahead of the field like we were a couple of years ago when we won back-to-back championships in 2021 and ‘22. You have to let this play out, and with a guy like Guido, the leader of our team, in my corner, I know this will all be worth it later in the year. It’s just growing pains as we adapt to this new car. I’m lucky to have such great supporting partners, and being around NAPA store owners is inspiring. These are people who work hard to get ahead in their business, and it’s the same thing in racing. You have to learn to pivot in an instant and adapt. It’s difficult now but it’ll all be worth it when we get the car’s performance back to what we’re used to. I have all of the confidence in the world in my NAPA team.”
 
The Ron Capps Motorsports team will head back to their headquarters in Brownsburg, Indiana where they will have a weekend off before beginning a grueling stretch of races, which sees the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series tour visit four stops in five weeks. The team will begin the NHRA New England Nationals, May 31 – June 2, ranked seventh in the Funny Car standings where Capps returns as a two-time New England Dragway champion.

This story was originally published on May 20, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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