After four rounds of qualifying at the PRO Superstar Shootout at Bradenton Motorsports Park, three-time NHRA Funny Car champion Ron Capps had the unique opportunity to participate in the Top Fuel vs. Funny Car Shootout on Saturday.
On the line was the Don Schumacher Nitro Superstar Award, which honors the late NHRA team owner and Funny Car pioneer whom Capps spent 17 years driving for during his standout career. It was a meaningful moment for Capps, who took on Top Fuel driver Billy Torrence in the opening round of the shootout.
Capps posted a .071 reaction time in his NAPA AutoCare Toyota GR Supra to gain the early advantage, but the car lost traction and finished with a run of 4.706-seconds at 182.60 mph. It spelled the end for Capps’ chance to win the special award, but he enjoyed every minute of the Funny Car vs. Top Fuel matchup and an opportunity to honor the iconic team owner.
“One of the things we were focused on at this race was a chance at the Don Schumacher Award,” Capps said. “We brought out a brand-new car from the ground up and we started testing on Tuesday. We could have brought last year’s car out, but we need to be ready for the season coming up. We stuck with the new car and it’s going to pay off.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t win the big money, but to be the first pair of the (Top Fuel) dragster versus Funny Car and have a shot at the Don Schumacher trophy, was pretty neat. There was a lot of excitement to see the fan’s faces with a dragster and Funny Car sitting there.”
The run against Torrence closed out a fruitful week of pre-season testing for Capps and his team as they prepared for the upcoming 2024 season in the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series. Led by crew chief Dean Antonelli, they put down several test laps in a new NAPA AutoCare GR Supra, making solid progress throughout the week.
After an opening 4.396 in qualifying on Thursday, Capps improved on the first two runs on Friday, going 4.090 to open the day and then a weekend-best pass of 3.945 at 324.44 MPH. That helped secure the veteran’s spot in the Top Fuel vs. Funny Car Shootout, as Capps, a 76-time event winner, left Bradenton with plenty of positive thoughts and momentum.
“What an event. Sometimes you forget how passionate drag racing fans are,” Capps said. “We all need a pre-season test session like we do every year and for PRO to get together to have this event, it was emotional to have that many people show up. Obviously, everybody was gunning for the $250,000, so we would have loved to have taken the big money. (But) it was a great event and we’ll focus now on getting ready for Gainesville.”
The 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series season opens March 8-10 with the 55th annual NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway.
ABM Communications PR