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Capps Faces Trial and Error of New Chassis at Arizona Nationals


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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

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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.”

As Capps lined up against No. 6 qualifier Alexander, hopes were high as he has defeated Alexander seven out of the eight times they’ve faced each other in the first round of eliminations. Despite getting the starting line advantage, Capps ultimately came up short. Both cars lost traction early in the race resulting in a bit of a pedal fest to the stripe, but Alexander was able to get there first.

“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.”

Capps is currently fifth in the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series points as he heads to the next stop on the tour, the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, April 12-14, where he is a six time winner at the facility.

Start / Finish: No. 11 / def. in first round
Points Standing / Total: No. 5 / 170 pts.

Next Race: April 12 – 14, Las Vegas, NHRA Four-Wide Nationals
How to Watch or Listen: FS1, 

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