For the second week in a row and fourth time this season, NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car pilot Ron Capps will start race day from the No. 1 seed. Capps earned the pole during the third and final round of qualifying for the NHRA Winternationals by powering his 11,000-horsepower machine to a stout 3.941-second pass under the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona lights to earn his 29th No. 1 qualifier award.
Capps, who owns the class-best qualifying average, has been racking up yellow No. 1 qualifier hats left and right as of late, and has advanced to the semifinals or beyond four times in the last five events. While they’ve come close, finishing as the runner-up at Houston, Team NAPA is still chasing their first 2021 triumph. The Carlsbad, Calif. resident, who refers to the Dean Antonelli/John Medlen-led NAPA team as ‘a win waiting to happen,’ knows the hot and tricky track conditions that plagued teams during Q2 – the only qualifying session contested during the heat of the day – will once again provide its own unique set of challenges on race day.
“Tomorrow is going to be new territory for a lot of crew chiefs and drivers,” said Capps referring to the uber-hot weather conditions that teams will have to battle through on Sunday. “We only got one run in the heat this weekend, and no one made it down. It’s such a different track being here in July versus February or November, and it’s kind of fun. That 10 a.m. round-one session could have the best conditions we’ll see all weekend. The track has just been so difficult to get down, so you’ve really got to be on your game, especially with a car like ours that makes a lot of power. You really have to make sure you race the race track and that’s why I’m so glad I’m with the team I’m with, because they’re able to do that.
“There’s going to be a lot of upsets,” added the 27-year nitro veteran whose pedaling expertise is likely to come in handy on Sunday. “There’s a lot of good teams qualified at the bottom of the field so it’ll be a really exciting show for the fans tomorrow, but stressful for the drivers and crew chiefs.”
Capps will open eliminations with a round-one matchup versus No. 16 qualifier Bobby Bode. He is a three-time NHRA Winternationals champion, but says a trophy at this year’s rescheduled event would be extra special given the unique circumstances of running the historic race in the summer.
“It’s really felt like a ‘throwback’ race all weekend. It would be fitting to get our first win together here with this team. I love the history of this track, and this race, and whoever wins tomorrow should really be extra proud. These are the trophies you really, really want.”
Qualified: No. 1 (lane choice)
The Competition: No. 16 Bobby Bode
Bonus Points: Three
Q1: 3.971 E.T. at 318.69 MPH
Q2: 6.269 E.T. at 108.92 MPH
Q3: 3.941 E.T. at 321.35 MPH (Three bonus points for quickest run of the weekend)