Three-time defending NHRA Funny Car world champion Ron Capps’ bid for one last NHRA Arizona Nationals victory ended in the final round Sunday afternoon at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. The three-time event champion, who made his professional debut at the Phoenix area track in 1995, fell in the final round to championship challenger Robert Hight.
Capps and his NAPA Auto Parts Toyota GR Supra struggled to get down the track in qualifying, ending up with a best of 4.028 E.T. to qualify No. 6.
Crew chief Dean “Guido” Antonelli found what he was looking for in the first round of eliminations on Sunday, though, as he led Capps and the Ron Capps Motorsports team to a 3.912-second victory over Funny Car rookie Alex Laughlin. Capps then recorded a 3.982 E.T. to knock out No. 3 qualifier Blake Alexander in the second round. The second-year team owner dipped further into the 3.90s in the semifinals, leaving first and posting a 3.930-second pass at 322.73 to defeat Alexis DeJoria and her 3.935-second effort. The semifinal triumph was Capps’ 50th round win since forming his own team going into the 2022 season.
By reaching the semifinals, Capps earned a spot in the second Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Funny Car Challenge, which will take place next weekend during Saturday qualifying at the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona.
“The excitement after winning the semifinals, as close of a race as that was with Alexis, and Del (Worsham) and that great team, I can’t believe how happy we were knowing we were going to be in the #2Fast2Tasty event,” Capps said. “It’s changed things for a lot of the teams, so we’re looking forward to that in Pomona.”
Racing in his 10th final round as a team owner and his 141st overall, Capps left the starting line just one thousandth of a second behind Hight, who was the championship runner-up to Capps in 2022. Capps went up in smoke shortly after leaving the starting line, though, giving the win to Hight.
“Overall, a great weekend here,” Capps said. “Very demanding track, very hard to get down, very hard to drive, and I couldn’t be more proud of our team. I’ve got to thank the Toyota engineers; they were helping us a ton with navigating the track conditions so, great job by everyone, and the best part is we get to go straight into Pomona.”
Like so many other drivers competing at what was billed as the final NHRA Arizona Nationals, Capps was moved by the possibility that Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park will close later this year. Before making his Top Fuel debut at Phoenix in 1995, Capps spent several years at Wild Horse Pass as a crew member on Top Alcohol cars and nitro cars. He later made his first runs in a nitro Funny Car there. He’s a seven-time finalist at Phoenix, winning three of those races.
“This weekend is bittersweet,” said Capps, who’s chasing his third consecutive world championship and fourth overall. “There’s a chance we may never come back to this track. As the day progressed, hearing that we reached our 50th round win for Ron Capps Motorsports made me incredibly proud of our whole team. Knowing we were going up for the final round with a chance to win the last Wally at this track brought up a lot of emotions. Hopefully we do come back here. You never know.”
With his runner-up finish, Capps moved up to third in points. The Ron Capps Motorsports team now heads further west for the NHRA Winternationals, March 31-April 2 at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip in Pomona, Calif.
Start / Finish: Qualified No. 6 / Defeated by Robert Hight in the final round
Points Earned: 95
2023 NHRA Camping World Series Points Standing / Total: No. 3 / 157 pts.
Next Race: March 31-April 2, NHRA Winternationals, Pomona, Calif.
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.