Reigning NHRA Funny Car world champion Ron Capps clinched the category’s first No. 1 qualifier award of the year on Saturday at Gainesville Raceway in Gainesville, Fla. Capps launched to the top of the timing sheets when he powered his NAPA Auto Parts Toyota GR Supra to a blistering 3.874 second at 333.25-mph pass during the final qualifying session at the season-opening NHRA Gatornationals.
Capps, who became the first Funny Car driver in 20 years to win back-to-back championships when he was crowned the 2022 champ, is going for the ‘Capps Trick’ this year as he attempts to pick up his third consecutive Funny Car title and fourth overall (2016, 2021, 2022).
After making his debut as an NHRA team owner by securing the pole and advancing to a runner-up finish at the 2022 season-opener in Pomona, Calif., Capps and his Ron Capps Motorsports team went on to win five races en route to securing the championship hardware, and it’s clear that Capps and his Dean ‘Guido’ Antonelli-led team are carrying that momentum into 2023.
“Last year was a dream year and it’s almost like, how do you top that? But, we showed up here and we came from behind, and we laid down low E.T. in that last session. Now, it wasn’t by much, and we’re not going to brag about it, but what a way to start the year,” remarked Capps, of the incredible side-by-side Q4 pass where he and on-track rival Robert Hight powered to identical 3.87-second, 333-mph runs.
It’s no secret that Capps and Hight, the 2022 Funny Car runner-up, have exchanged barbs over the off-season. The two were standouts in the loaded Funny Car category and battled for the championship trophy until the bitter end, spurring the friendly rivalry between the veteran drivers. While Capps’ NAPA Supra may carry the No. 1 sticker, he knows he has a target on his back and is using the stiff competition as motivation.
“We talked during the off-season about how tough this year was going to be, how hardcore it was going to be, and how pissed off some of the drivers are that made a run for the championship but didn’t win it,” Capps explained. “When you don’t win it, you come out that next year and you’re so mad and you just want to hurry up and get the season to get started.
“I’ve been on the other side of that coin so many times, probably many more than anyone else in Funny Car, so I get it. But, it was only fitting that we were lined up next to Hight every session,” Capps joked.
In addition to his stellar Q4 pass which earned three bonus points, Capps and the NAPA team also added a point in Saturday’s first session when they clocked a 3.943 E.T., which held up to be the third-quickest of the round.
A four-time Gainesville Raceway winner, Capps will be looking to advance to his 10th final elimination round since forming Ron Capps Motorsports. He enters the weekend with 46 elimination round victories as a team owner, and will take on No. 16 qualifier Terry Haddock as his first opponent as he attempts to make a run through the Funny Car field and clinch RCM’s 50th round win. Before Sunday’s elimination rounds get underway, Capps and his fellow Camping World Series title holders will be presented with their championship rings.
Q1: 3.912 E.T. at 329.18 MPH
Q2: Session canceled due to rain
Q3: 3.943 E.T. at 330.63 MPH (One bonus point for third-quickest of the session)
Q4: 3.874 E.T. at 333.25 MPH (Three bonus points for quickest of the session)
Total Bonus Points: Four
ABM Communications PR