Three-time and reigning NHRA Funny Car world champion Ron Capps parlayed a strong qualifying effort at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals into a late-round finish Sunday afternoon at Sonoma Raceway. The driver of the NAPA Auto Parts Toyota GR Supra came up just .006 seconds short in the semifinals, missing out on the chance to race for his second win of the season and the milestone 75th of his career.
Capps and crew chief Dean ‘Guido’ Antonelli kicked off qualifying by making the second-quickest pass of the session, a 3.942 E.T., to earn two bonus points. It would be his quickest pass of the four qualifying sessions, and he only slipped down one spot to third by the time qualifying wrapped up on Saturday evening.
Sunday’s eliminations began with a first-round meeting with Tim Gibbons, the 95th different driver Capps has faced in eliminations. Gibbons had to shut off after the burnout, while Capps took advantage of the free pass and lifted after hazing the tires down track. In a second-round battle between two of the most accomplished drivers in the class, Capps grabbed a starting line advantage over Robert Hight and got the win with a 4.018-second pass. He also earned a spot in the next Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge with that round win. Capps was first off the line again in the semifinals against Chad Green, but his consistent 4.013 E.T. was just .006 seconds short of turning on the win light next to Green’s 3.991 E.T.
“A great Sonoma outing,” said Capps, a four-time Sonoma winner. “It’s a great facility, a home track for me; it’s fun. A lot of family is out here, and just good vibes all around. I really felt comfortable all weekend long like we were going to go to the finals this weekend. Chad Green, he’s been running good. He says we’ve been beating up on him, but they got us back today and they earned it.”
Sonoma wrapped up the three-race NHRA Western Swing, which saw racers battle high-altitude conditions at the NHRA Mile-High Nationals near Denver before continuing on to the Northwest Nationals in Seattle and the Sonoma Nationals in California’s wine country. Capps also reached the semis at Denver, and his semifinal finish at Sonoma puts him second in Funny Car points.
“The West Coast Swing can go so many different ways,” Capps said. “You can have a fantastic West Coast Swing and not have a strong finish to the year, but you can also have an okay or a not very good one and still come out with the championship at the end of the year, and we’ve done that before. These swings are grueling, but I’m proud of our NAPA team because we have been very well-stocked parts-wise, but we didn’t go through many over these three races, and that’s a tribute to Guido and his NAPA ‘Get Up and Go’ and how he runs this car.”
The NHRA Camping World Series now goes into an off weekend, but Capps and his Ron Capps Motorsports team will keep their busy summer rolling with a match race at Summit Motorsports Park’s 46th annual Night Under Fire on Saturday, Aug. 5. Then, Capps will become the first NHRA driver to compete in the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) when he joins the series at Eldora Speedway on Thursday, Aug. 10.
“We’ve got an exciting two weeks coming up with SRX,” Capps said. “I’m excited to have NHRA nation tune-in, and to represent drag racing. Our guys head to Ohio next for the Night Under Fire next week. A lot of them will have their families come out, and it’s just a great event. Bill Bader always puts on epic events and we’re proud to have been invited. Just a lot of great things going on for our NAPA team.”
The 2023 NHRA Camping World Series season continues Aug. 11-13 at the Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor at Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka, Kansas.
Start / Finish: Qualified No. 3/ Defeated by Chad Green in the semifinals
2023 NHRA Camping World Series Points Standing / Total: 2nd / 893 pts. (-19)
Next Race: Aug. 11-13, Topeka, Kan., Menard’s NHRA Nationals
How to Watch or Listen: FS1; NHRA.TV
Established in 2021, Ron Capps Motorsports is a single-car NHRA Funny Car team owned and operated by reigning and three-time world champion Ron Capps. Headquartered in Brownsburg, Ind., the team made its on-track debut in 2022 and competes on the 21-race NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series circuit thanks to the support of NAPA Auto Parts, Toyota, and GearWrench.