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Ron Capps Takes NAPA Toyota GR Supra to Funny Car Final Round at St. Louis

 Reigning NHRA Funny Car world champion Ron Capps boosted his ‘Capps Trick’ campaign for a third consecutive title by racing to a runner-up finish at the NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway. He dropped a spot to fourth in the points standings after a tie-breaker final round against Matt Hagan, but the second-year team owner is as motivated as ever to chase another championship in his NAPA Auto Parts Toyota GR Supra.
 
Capps, who earned his first career Funny Car win at St. Louis in 1997, was one of several top-ranked drivers who struggled to get down the track in the first qualifying session on Friday. He rebounded in the second session on Saturday with the second-quickest run of the round, a 4.023 E.T., to earn two bonus points. He just missed out on bonus points in the third and final session with his 3.952, which was the fourth-quickest pass of the session. It also moved Capps up a spot to the No. 7 position.
 
The first round of eliminations saw Capps line up against Tim Wilkerson, who owns a NAPA AutoCare Center in nearby Springfield, Ill. Capps grabbed a .025-second advantage on the starting line, and it paid off at the finish line when his engine expired. NHRA’s marquee matchup lived up to the hype, as Capps recorded a 3.998 E.T. at 306.12 MPH to beat Wilkerson’s 3.977 E.T. at 318.47 MPH on a holeshot. Capps was first off the line again against Alex Laughlin in the second round and powered on to a winning 4.066-second performance. With crew chief Dean ‘Guido’ Antonelli calling the shots, Capps improved to a 4.014 E.T. at 323.35 MPH to defeat Blake Alexander and earn lane choice for the final round by just .002 seconds.
 
Capps and Hagan went into the final round tied for third in points. In their 13th final-round meeting, the two drivers had similar incremental times to the 660-foot mark. That’s where Capps started losing power, and he watched as Hagan crossed the finish line first with a 3.991 E.T. at 324.90 MPH to Capps’ 4.025 E.T. at 306.88 MPH.
 
“We knew Dickie (Venables) and Matt could run that number and we were right there with them,” said Capps, the winningest Funny Car driver at World Wide Technology Raceway. “He threw a pretty good light on me, and I saw his car out of my window and I was just hoping he would smoke the tires. It is going to be a battle and it is going to be like this from here on out. I’m really excited now going to Dallas.”
 
Numerous championship contenders struggled in qualifying, creating a unique eliminations ladder that paired up Countdown drivers in the first and second rounds. Other than a misstep in the first session, Capps and his NAPA Auto Parts team worked with the conditions they were given and displayed the ‘Get Up and Go’ that put them in the points lead going into the Countdown.
 
“We fought in the heat to qualify and really had a bizarre eliminations ladder,” Capps said. “A lot of teams that qualify top five or so were scattered, and some didn’t have lane choice. I knew going into today we were either going to lose a lot of ground or make up some of the ground. I bragged a lot about our guys winning the regular season and those points that came with it. We went out first round in Charlotte, and that is the reason we earned those points, to not feel it.”
 
The Ron Capps Motorsports team will have two weeks to prepare for the final stretch of the Countdown, which begins Oct. 12-15 at the Texas NHRA FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas.

This story was originally published on October 2, 2023. Drag Illustrated

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