The NHRA Gatornationals got off to an unusual start when teams only had one qualifying session to secure a spot in the Sunday elimination show due to a rain-out on Friday, and unseasonably cold weather on Saturday. The reigning NHRA Camping World Series Funny Car champion’s sole qualifying run of 7.487 seconds placed him in the No. 10 seed and he drew Bob Tasca III as his round-one competitor. During Sunday morning’s pre-race ceremonies, Ron Capps was presented with his 2021 championship ring, and he was hoping to add more hardware to his collection by picking up his fifth Gainesville Raceway Wally trophy in the afternoon.
In what was billed as NHRA’s ‘marquee match-up,’ Capps easily defeated Tasca by powering his NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car to a winning 3.864-second at 336.23-mph ride, clocking low E.T. of the round and top speed of the meet. For the third time in three races, Capps and John Force lined up side-by-side during eliminations. Each driver had previously scored a round win on the other, and on Sunday at ‘the Gators,’ Capps extended his lead by driving his NAPA machine through the finish line beams in 3.913 seconds to defeat Force’s 4.096-second effort. In the semifinals, Capps faced off against Blake Alexander. The two-time world champion stood on the throttle and almost immediately lost traction while his opponent made a clean pass for the win.
“Obviously we would’ve liked to have qualified better, but the ability of Dean Antonelli and John Medlen and our entire AutoCare Center team to bounce back and go out first round and go 336-miles-per-hour and run low E.T. of the round, that’s the NAPA Know How I always brag about,” said Capps. “That run gave me a lot of confidence for the rest of the race day, and we really felt like things were going well, but that’s NHRA Drag Racing. You can’t take anyone for granted, no matter how much of an advantage you think you have on the other car, and the semifinals were a great example of that. I wish we could have gone further today, but we maintained our position in points, and made up a little bit on Robert Hight, the current point leader, which was good.
“Up next is the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Vegas, which is always a lot of fun for our team, and I’m going into it knowing I’ve got a great race car, which is the best part of it all. We started this team ownership venture with the mindset of ‘hire the best people and things will take care of themselves,’ and that’s what we’ve seen thus far and I feel very blessed.”
Capps and the NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car team depart Gainesville, Fla. ranked third in the point standings.