Three-time and reigning Funny Car world champion Ron Capps went into the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals tied with Tony Schumacher as the winningest driver at Bristol Dragway. On Sunday evening, he added another victory in his NAPA Auto Parts Toyota GR Supra to break that tie and claim his first Wally of the 2023 season.
Capps, who was also the defending event champion, qualified No. 2 on the strength of his 3.962-second E.T. at 318.92 MPH recorded in Friday’s second qualifying session. On Sunday, he posted a 3.964-second effort to beat Dave Richards in the opening round of eliminations. The second-year team owner was then first off of the starting line again in the second round, winning with a 3.946 E.T. over a tire-smoking John Force. That win also came with a spot in the next Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge.
With crew chief Dean ‘Guido’ Antonelli calling the shots, Capps stepped up to his quickest pass of the weekend, a 3.918 E.T., to win his semifinal match with Chad Green. In advancing to his fourth final round of the season, Capps also took over the Funny Car points lead.
In an all-Toyota showdown, Capps grabbed a holeshot advantage over Alexis DeJoria before lighting up the scoreboard with a 3.998 E.T. next to DeJoria’s 3.999-second runner-up effort. Capps has now won six times since forming Ron Capps Motorsports ahead of the 2022 season.
“We’ve been close. Three final rounds,” said Capps, now a seven-time Bristol winner. “Should have been a win already, but this is probably the most demanding racetrack there is to drive a Funny Car. I think that anybody that drives one of these will tell you that. I probably cost us a couple of qualifying runs. I just couldn’t hang on to the car and keep it in the middle. Thankfully, I got my act together on Sunday, and ‘Guido’ was able to lay it down. It is such a relief to see that Wally again. I honestly tell people, you never know if you are going to see one again. That is how tough it is.”
By winning on Sunday, Capps successfully defended his win in 2022, when he earned the first Wally for the new Toyota GR Supra. This time, he helped Toyota approach the 200-win mark in NHRA competition. His was the 198th win, with Justin Ashley adding the 199th one pair later in the all-Toyota Top Fuel final round with Antron Brown.
“I was pretty stoked when we pulled up (for the final round) and all four nitro cars were Toyota teams,” Capps said. “Jwan (Smith), Paul (Flynn) and Slugger (Labbe), and all of the people that are here every weekend – people don’t understand that they send one of their trucks – it’s like what goes to NASCAR races as well – and they send it to NHRA races for the support of our teams. It is unbelievable, the behind-the-scenes that you don’t hear about. So, very happy for Toyota.”
Capps is excited about taking over the points lead, though he realizes there’s a lot of racing left in the regular season and the all-important Countdown to the Championship portion of the NHRA Camping World Series season.
“(Matt) Hagan has had us scrambling on it, him and Tony Stewart (owner),” Capps said. “That is huge. It’s a long year. It’s great on Monday morning to see that we’re the points leaders. That’s great, but it doesn’t really count until Sunday at Pomona. I can finally say that because we finally won one from behind when we won it on Sunday last year to get our third world championship. We are just trying to get wins and just get our consistency down, but this is huge. Great win.”
A trip to Hawaii is on tap for Capps, who will visit with NAPA Auto Parts store owners and customers during a meet-and-greet at Maui Raceway Park on Saturday, June 17. Then, he’ll get back to racing at the NHRA Norwalk Nationals, June 23-25, at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.