Three-time and defending NHRA Funny Car world champion Ron Capps came up just one win light short of a third Route 66 Raceway victory, as he fell to Tim Wilkerson in the final round Sunday afternoon at the Route 66 NHRA Nationals. For his efforts, the driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota GR Supra moved up two spots in the championship point standings to sit second leaving Chicago.
Like most of the Funny Car entrants, Capps had to coast down the track in the opening round of qualifying after struggling to find traction on the Route 66 surface, which hasn’t seen NHRA national event competition since 2019. The next round of qualifying was also tricky, but Capps was able to record a 4.127-second E.T. to move up eight positions and win the first round of the Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge over Bob Tasca III. In the final session – and the final round of the #2Fast2Tasty Challenge – Capps fired off a winning pass of 3.941 seconds at 328.30 MPH to win the $10,000 final round over Terry Haddock, who wasn’t able to make the run due to a mechanical issue. It was Capps’ first win in the new race-within-a-race series, and earned him three championship bonus points in the process.
Racing out of the No. 6 position on Sunday, Capps lined up with Haddock for a rematch of their Saturday race. This one went Capps’ way as well, with the NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota GR Supra running a 4.002-second E.T. to beat Haddock’s 4.07-second effort. In the second round, Capps and opponent Bob Tasca III had nearly identical reaction times but Capps powered ahead to finish first with a 3.983-second pass at 321.96 MPH, locking in his spot in the next Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge. A consistent 3.985 E.T. at 323.12 MPH was enough to knock Chad Green out in the semifinals, sending Capps to the final round.
In Capps’ third final round of the season and the 143rd of his career, he left the starting line first with a .053-second reaction time to lead Tim Wilkerson out of the gate. One of his parachutes deployed around the half-track point, slowing Capps to a 4.110-second pass, while Wilkerson made his best run in eliminations to get the win.
“Man, what an incredible race weekend,” Capps said. “Unfortunately, we came up a little bit short. I can’t think of anybody I’d rather lose a final round to at this point than Tim Wilkerson, especially being someone in the NAPA AutoCare family like he is. Every time we race, we just put on a good show. The NAPA Toyota was trucking down through there, and for some reason the left parachute came out. At that point, it spun the tires and turned sideways on me and I was able to watch the SCAG car, Wilky, go through there.”
Capps praised his team, led by crew chief Dean ‘Guido’ Antonelli and assistant crew chief Tom Buckingham, for their efforts to adapt to the hot, challenging conditions. The Ron Capps Motorsports team had a better grip than most, recording low E.T. of the second and third rounds on Sunday.
“Everybody struggled here. It was tricky,” said Capps, now a three-time runner-up this season. “We’re going to see these kinds of conditions throughout the summer months, so I’m very proud of what our guys did to win the Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge. That gained us extra points, which was huge. Going to the final round in one of the trickiest days we’ve seen was also huge. Very smart crew chiefs had issues getting down the track for a lot of teams. ‘Guido’ and ‘T-Buck’ and the guys did such a great job all day.
“Heartache not winning in the final, but I’m very pumped to see these next few races and really get ready for the summer months,” Capps added. “It’s going to be a lot of fun with our race team.”
Capps and his Ron Capps Motorsports team will take the momentum from their Chicago runner-up into the upcoming NHRA New England Nationals, June 2-4, at New England Dragway near Epping, N.H.