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Semifinal Finish for Ron Capps at NHRA Winternationals

Ron Capps was looking to make it four straight NHRA Winternationals final round appearances on Sunday at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip, but a puff of smoke in the semifinals halted the three-time Funny Car world champion’s shot at capping off his weekend in the winner’s circle at a facility he considers to be a home track.

The driver of the NAPA Auto Parts Toyota GR Supra Funny Car has enjoyed an impeccable record at Pomona as of late. His last six outings at both the Spring and Fall events have included three No. 1 qualifiers, three runner-up finishes, and a win at the rescheduled 2021 Winternationals. After powering to the second-quickest pass during the second and final round of what became an abbreviated qualifying show due to persistent rain, the lifelong Californian and current Carlsbad resident placed his NAPA GR Supra in the No. 2 qualifying position and appeared to be on track to tie his former boss, Don Prudhomme, the only Funny Car driver to make four consecutive Winternationals final round appearances (1975 – ’78).

Capps drew Funny Car newbie Austin Prock as his first-round competitor. When it was time to pull up to the line, the NAPA team caught fans by surprise when they chose what seemed to be the unfavorable left lane. After watching car after car struggle to make a clean pass in that lane, Dean ‘Guido’ Antonelli flexed his crew chief muscle and tuned the NAPA Supra to a stout 3.891 E.T. to easily defeat Prock’s 4.138. The run not only sent Capps into the next round but held up to be low E.T. of the event. In the quarterfinals, Capps posted a 3.935 E.T. to activate the scoreboard win lights once again, defeating Terry Haddock in the process. The semifinals featured a battle between the two winningest drivers in the category, but the excitement was short-lived as Capps’ machine uncharacteristically went up in smoke early while Force made a clean pass in the opposite lane to advance.

“It was us versus Force, Toyota versus Chevy,” Capps explained of his semifinal match-up. “Obviously, you want to do well for Toyota and thought we had the advantage there with our GR Supra body. We found something right before we went up there. You know, I’m always bragging about my team that we have the NAPA Know How, and they caught something that could’ve been a bigger deal and they caught it right before we went up. So, we were a little rushed, me getting in the car and getting up there. Then it started sprinkling and we thought they were going to hold off, but we got up there last minute. I haven’t talked to Guido yet to see mechanically why it smoked the tires, but just something the car hadn’t done all weekend. We felt pretty comfortable, and again like Gainesville, we had a great car. Felt like a car that could win the race. But the good thing is, we have a couple weeks off and two more West Coast races, so let’s see if we can go out there and get a trophy.” 

Shortly after the semifinal round was contested, the remainder of on-track activities were canceled for the day due to rain and hail. The NHRA Winternationals will be completed during the upcoming NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird Motorsports Park in Chandler, Arizona, April 5 – 7. Updated points will be sent following the conclusion of that event.

This story was originally published on March 25, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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