Leah Pruett, Ron Capps Win Pomona

JERRY FOSS NHRA/NATIONAL DRAGSTE

Drag racing’s winningest organization ‘doubled-up,’ sweeping the Top Fuel and Funny Car categories for the 68th time during the rescheduled NHRA Winternationals on Sunday when SoCal racers Leah Pruett and Ron Capps broke through to drive their 11,000-horsepower machines to victory for the first time in 2021.

Aboard the Sparkling Ice Spiked Top Fuel dragster, Pruett clocked a 4.021-second at 247.61 mph run in the final round to earn her ninth Top Fuel victory, while Capps posted a 4.151-second at 297.75 mph pass behind the wheel of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to earn his 66th Funny Car trophy, and 67th overall.

One week after advancing to the final round in Sonoma, Pruett followed up her strong NorCal performance by securing the second seed at the venue where she first got her NHRA start while competing in Jr. Dragsters 25 years prior. The Redlands, Calif. native opened eliminations with a round-one triumph over Steve Chrisman to earn the coveted quarterfinal Bye run. Against Mike Salinas in the semis, Pruett took the Sparkling Ice Spiked machine on a winning 3.927-second ride to secure a bid to the finals for the 18th time in her career.

Pruett was lined up and ready for battle against No. 7 qualifier Justin Ashley in the final showdown when her opponent chose to err on the side of caution after experiencing symptoms of heat exhaustion, and opt-out of the run. That provided Pruett with her second solo opportunity of the day, and an uncontested win to officially earn her second Pomona Wally trophy (2017).

“First and foremost, I hope Justin (Ashley) is doing well. He is an incredible competitor and I wanted nothing but to race against him,” said Pruett of her final round Bye.

“This win is about the perseverance of this Sparkling Ice Spiked team, our dedication to do this on a home track is phenomenal,” added Pruett, who moved into fourth in the Top Fuel rankings after a frustrating dry spell that found her winless since Brainerd 2019. “Thank you so much to everybody that stuck with us. I mean, we dug deep. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a Wally (trophy). The most impressive part for me today was how our team has continued to persist and persevere and grow into the success region that we have right now.

“For (crew chief) Todd Okuhara to have an aggressive tuning persona and an application while being in the mud, and (assistant crew chief) Neal Strausbaugh, having leadership ability and bringing us all together. It’s about the fundamentals of what’s happening in the trailer and having each other’s back and pulling the rope in the same direction. We had been doing that, but we really got in sync together and that’s what makes me the most proud. This win is because of the progression over the last couple of weeks and what it has taken. The Sparkling Ice Spiked team definitely deserves every bit of this one no matter how it came. I’m very proud of them.”

Prior to Sunday, Capps had come close to tasting victory with his new Dean Antonelli/John Medlen-guided NAPA team, including a runner-up finish in Houston and consecutive semifinal appearances at the three most recent events. He had spent the past several weeks describing his team as ‘a win waiting to happen,’ and after battling through the 18-entry Pomona Funny Car field to nab the pole for the second week in a row, he drove his No. 1 qualified NAPA Dodge past Bobby Bode, Bob Tasca III, and John Force to meet fellow former world champion J.R. Todd in the final round. Against Todd, Capps set off the win light with a 4.151 E.T. to defeat his opponent’s 4.289-second effort in a nail-biter of a race that forced both drivers to maneuver through dropped cylinders. Capps’ triumph marked his fourth Winternationals victory, and propelled him into the Funny Car point lead.

“I was thinking this week I should stop saying ‘a win’s coming,’ because I felt like maybe I was jinxing it but I truly felt like our team was like Pac-Man,” said Capps who jumped four spots up to first in the Funny Car standings. “You know, we were just chomping through these Camping World series points – semifinal after semifinal, a final in Houston. We’ve been consistent, and I really think we can have the regular-season point lead going into the Countdown, we just need to keep doing what we’re doing.”

Sunday’s win was not only significant for the lifelong Calif. resident because it was achieved in front of friends and family at his home track, but it was also the first time he won with his new team, and in what may likely be one of the most challenging settings NHRA teams will experience all year.

“Today was probably some of the most extreme conditions I’ve driven a Funny Car in, and maybe even the most fun car to drive,” added Capps of the hot weather that confronted teams on race day. “Everyone’s been tearing their hair out trying to get down the track and we had things happen, and cylinders going out and Guido and Medlen were just leaving it be because my NAPA Dodge was running like a bracket car. They’ve got such a nice tune-up that you can put a cylinder out and get through that rough spot and still make it down the track. We were quietly going about it every run.

“I’ve been longtime friends with Guido but we had never worked together. I had already worked with John Medlen, I knew how he operates, and he’s light years ahead of a lot of people with these great ideas. It’s great to have them both in our lounge.”

Pruett and Capps’ double-up victory brings Don Schumacher Racing’s overall win count to 362.

Leah Pruett
Qualified: 
No. 2 (3.780 E.T. at 321.88 MPH)
The Results:
E1: 3.906 E.T. at 311.77 MPH defeated Steve Chrisman 4.312 E.T. at 210.87 MPH
E2: 3.931 E.T. at 310.27 MPH defeated BYE
E3: 3.927 E.T. at 311.05 MPH defeated Mike Salinas 4.360 E.T. at 194.80 MPH
E4: 4.021 E.T. at 247.61 MPH defeated BYE

Ron Capps
Qualified:
 No. 1 (3.941 E.T. at 321.35 MPH)
The Results:
E1: 4.020 E.T. at 309.77 MPH defeated Bobby Bode 4.180 E.T. at 263.92 MPH
E2: 4.151 E.T. at 296.50 MPH defeated Bob Tasca 4.278 E.T. at 288.58 MPH
E3: 4.158 E.T. at 300.06 MPH defeated John Force 4.659 E.T. at 195.19 MPH
E4: 4.151 E.T. at 297.75 MPH defeated J.R. Todd 4.289 E.T. at 286.56 MPH

DSR PR