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Capps Loses Bizarre Second-Round Matchup at Gatornationals


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Three-time NHRA Funny Car world champion Ron Capps didn’t predict that a double-step and a red light in the second round would mark the end of his weekend on Sunday afternoon at the season-opening NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway. When opponent J.R. Todd double-stepped while waiting for the tree to drop, Capps reacted early and turned on the red light in his quick and consistent

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Toyota GR Supra.

Capps in his Dean ‘Guido’ Antonelli-tuned hot rod qualified third after consistently going down the track and making the third-quickest pass in all three completed qualifying sessions; Saturday’s fourth session was canceled due to weather. He picked up one bonus point in each of those sessions. It was Capps’ 3.871-second pass at 333.00 MPH in Friday’s second session that put him third on the final qualifying order.

2024 NHRA, GatorNationals

In the first round of eliminations on Sunday, Capps left the starting line first against Jim Campbell and charged to a 3.870-second pass at 332.18 MPH to get the win over a tire-hazing Campbell. It was the second-quickest performance of the round and Capps’ quickest of the weekend, extending his record over Campbell to a class-record 18-0 and giving him lane choice in the second round.

Capps met up with past world champion and fellow Toyota driver J.R. Todd in the second round. Todd double-stepped the throttle, leading Capps to smash the throttle pedal in his NAPA Auto Care entry. He hit it .037 seconds too soon, as the red light came on in his lane. The third-year team owner coasted to a 4.185-second run at 249.39 MPH knowing he was disqualified due to the red light.

2024 NHRA, GatorNationals

“A heartbreaking Sunday race day, obviously, more so because we had such a great race car,” Capps said. “We were so well prepared for our NAPA Auto Care team to go down the track every single run we were here. Even the run that we lost, with all that went on at the starting line, this car still went down the track under power until they killed the ignition switch on me. It probably would have gone to the finish line, but we didn’t want to take a chance after the weird starting line scenario.”

Capps went into the weekend as a four-time Gatornationals winner who was attempting to tie former boss Don ‘The Snake’ Prudhomme’s record as the second-winningest Funny Car driver at the historic Florida track. He said the bizarre second-round incident spoke to the pressure that exists in the Funny Car class, especially at the season-opening Gatornationals. 

2024 NHRA, GatorNationals

“Obviously, we wanted to get another Gatornationals win, but that was so weird up there,” Capps said. “You’re so keyed up. It was a long delay for the starting line, which is great because I love that. It really makes everybody be on their toes. But when your right foot and your butt is strapped into 13,000 horsepower, you could cut the air with a knife. J.R. just made a mistake, and he felt terrible, but it’s nothing he did wrong. It’s just part of it. I tried to hold my foot, but I heard his car and reacted.”

Capps took comfort in the fact that he didn’t lose due to the performance of his NAPA Auto Care Toyota GR Supra. He’s confident the car’s consistency will carry over to the next race at one of his home tracks, In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip. 

2024 NHRA, GatorNationals

“It’s upsetting because of how good a car we had, but it’s also a silver lining leaving here,” said Capps, owner of Ron Capps Motorsports. “It makes it a little less agonizing because I know how good we are right now. We’ll just move on to Pomona with a great hot rod.”

Capps and the Ron Capps Motorsports Funny Car team will be back on track March 22 – 24 at the NHRA Winternationals at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip in Pomona, Calif.

Start / Finish: No. 3 / def. in second round
Points Standing / Total: 5th / 59 pts.

Next Race: March 22-24, NHRA Winternationals, Pomona, CA
How to Watch or Listen: FS1; 

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    • By NAPA
      Ron Capps’ bid for a third consecutive Funny Car win at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals came to an end in a close second-round race Sunday afternoon at Bristol Dragway. Capps qualified third in his NAPA Auto Care Toyota GR Supra before falling in the quarterfinals to J.R. Todd. The overall weekend performance showed Capps and his Dean ‘Guido’ Antonelli-led team that the drastic changes they made in the early part of the season are paying off as the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series heads into the hot summer races. Capps leaves Bristol No. 6 in the point standings after eight of 20 races on the 2024 schedule.
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      For the second event in a row,
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      As he celebrated 30 years as a professional drag racer, Funny Car superstar Ron Capps was looking forward to a long race day on Sunday at the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird Motorsports Park. The three-time world champion entered eliminations in the No. 11 position on the ladder but made an early exit against Blake Alexander in the first round of competition. 
      Aboard his brand-new link hidden, please login to view Toyota GR Supra, Capps battled to gain a favorable spot on the ladder among a stacked Funny Car field. Typically, teams at this elite level within the sport will go through several test sessions with a new car before throwing it into the intensity of NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series competition, so Capps, crew chief Dean ‘Guido’ Antonelli, and the Ron Capps Motorsports team knew that they would experience some trial and error. His first qualifying effort went up in a puff of smoke, but his second attempt showed more promise as he powered to the finish line with a run of 4.020 seconds at 310.34 MPH. A loss of traction in the third qualifying round forced Capps to shut off early, marking the first time in 20 events for him to begin eliminations from the bottom half of the field. 
      “Building into the race we had the excitement of the 30 years. Having fans come up throughout the weekend and saying, ‘Happy Anniversary’ and things like that, it was fun,” began Capps as he recalled his weekend. “I always try to keep our NAPA fans updated as much as we can about what goes on with our team. We brought out a new chassis. It’s something we built in the off-season. Rather than testing first, we decided to do it in race conditions and that’s hard to do. But it reminds me a lot of our NAPA Auto Care people because I love this process of trying to take something and be the best with something so new. It’s like pulling your car into an AutoCare Center, you have a dash light blinking and technicians can attack that problem, and they don’t just snap their fingers and fix it. It’s a process, especially with today’s cars, as they try to figure out what the problem is. I love watching my NAPA Auto Care guys do the same thing. The car didn’t go down the track in the first run and to watch how many hours they put in trying to figure things out, it was really impressive.”
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      “There’s an upside and a downside to bringing a new chassis out at a race. It’s a gutsy move. But a couple of races down the road, I know that we are going to be much better because of it. And that’s also part of me having the utmost confidence in Guido and our NAPA Auto Care team. We didn’t qualify in the top half of the field, so we didn’t have lane choice. As we sat in the staging lanes, seeing dragsters winning only in the left lane made me pretty nervous and sure enough we got put in the right lane. That’s part of not qualifying in the top half. We still felt like we could beat them and that’s the confidence we had going up there. But it just wouldn’t hold, and we lost traction. I feel like I could have done a better job pedaling it. I should win those races, but we didn’t. But I feel like we’re going to have a great car for Vegas.”
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