Quarterfinal Finish for Ron Capps at 50th Annual NHRA Gatornationals
Ron Capps and the NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car team qualified eighth for the 50th running of the historic NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla. A solid first-round performance set up a quarterfinal matchup with fellow former Funny Car world champion Robert Hight, but instant tire smoke dashed Capps’ hopes at bringing home the Gainesville Raceway hardware for the fourth time in his career.
As the second-winningest Funny Car driver of all time, Ron Capps has amassed 60 Funny Car victories and was hoping to add the golden 50th annual NHRA Gatornationals Wally trophy to his growing collection.
Armed with a brand-new chassis, Capps and the Rahn Tobler-led NAPA AUTO PARTS team qualified in the top half of the field to earn lane choice over first-round opponent Bob Tasca III. Capps powered the NAPA Dodge Hellcat to a 3.910-second pass to take the win over Tasca’s 3.969 E.T. and set up a quarterfinal meeting with Robert Hight.
Capps and Hight had nearly identical reaction times, but the race was over as soon as Capps stood on the gas. His 11,000-horsepower machine immediately went up in smoke and he watched as Hight drove away with the round win.
“We were trying to find ourselves this weekend,” said Capps, a three-time Gainesville Raceway Funny Car champion. “We came here after a great test session in Phoenix with our brand-new DSR chassis. It’s not like we were that far off this weekend, it’s just Tobler’s been fighting some new car blues. This is just something you go through when you bring out a new car. Sometimes everything comes out perfect and sometimes you’ve just got to chase adjustments here and there.
“Tobler did a great job to bounce us back in qualifying and then to go up there against a very tough team with Tasca’s car and go 91 in the first round was good, but he still wasn’t comfortable with the car and was still making adjustments.
“We ran into (crew chief) Jimmy Prock and Robert Hight in round two and they’ve got a great running car, and we knew we’d have to go up there and run an 86 or 87. Smoking the tires at the hit is not something Rahn Tobler is known to do and as soon as I got back to the pit from that run, he felt like he already knew why it did that. That’s what I love about racing with Tobler; he’s constantly thinking. Win or lose, he’s already thinking of how to get better. He catches things that will make us better in the future. Unfortunately, this 50th anniversary would’ve been a nice race to win but it’s a long season and I can’t get wait to get back out west and race at the Vegas Four-Wide.”
Start / Finish: Qualified No. 8 / Lost in the quarterfinals to Robert Hight
Points Earned: 57
2019 NHRA Mello Yello Series Points Standing / Total: 9th / 146 pts.
Next Race: April 5-7, Las Vegas, NHRA Four-Wide Nationals
How to Watch or Listen: FS1; NHRA.TV