TOPEKA, Kan. (August 13, 2023) – NHRA Funny Car star Ron Capps went into the Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor chasing his fifth Topeka win and the 75th event title of his career. His pursuit ended in the second round during rain-delayed Sunday eliminations, falling to fellow world champion J.R. Todd on a tire-hazing run. Still, the championship contender leaves the final NHRA national event at Heartland Motorsports Park as the No. 2 driver in the points standings.
“Man, what a grueling weekend here at Heartland Park,” said Capps, who became the first NHRA driver to compete in the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) series on Thursday before the Topeka race. “We can’t thank the fans enough for showing up despite the weather. The heat was unbelievable – for the teams to work in, and the fans to hang out in, it was just brutal. But the fans packed the campground and the grandstands all weekend long and that’s why we love it here.”
With crew chief Dean ‘Guido’ Antonelli calling the shots, Capps made his best run of qualifying in the first session on Friday, which also happened to be the second-quickest pass of the session. His 3.950 E.T. at 314.17 MPH gave him two bonus points, and it held up for the No. 2 spot by the time qualifying wrapped up on Saturday.
Race day started with rain showers, pushing eliminations back several hours after the planned start time. In his first-round match with Dave Richards, Capps was first off the starting line, but the NAPA Auto Parts entry started hazing the tires. The veteran wheelman pedaled it and crossed the finish line under power with a winning 4.337 E.T. In a second-round battle against fellow world champion and the most recent winner on tour, J.R. Todd, Capps had the starting line advantage yet again, but traction issues flared up once more. This time, Capps had to click it off after pedaling a couple of times, while Todd powered past him for the win.
“In typical Topeka fashion, the racetrack was ‘throw down’ conditions when the sun got blocked by the clouds, and when the sun came out, it was a fight to get down the track,” Capps said. “We saw a lot of teams really elevate themselves. We qualified No. 2, another great weekend for Guido and our NAPA AutoCare team. Our Toyota Supra was running great, but we were just a little bit behind the eight ball today. We lost lane choice going into second round. The cloud cover came in and we thought we had a good chance of stepping it up and running with J.R. Todd and that team, but it was just a little too much power and we lost traction at about halftrack.”
While Capps didn’t go as deep into eliminations as he would’ve liked, the three-time and reigning world champion maintained his No. 2 spot in the Funny Car points standings. Just two races remain in the NHRA regular season before starting the six-race Countdown to the Championship.
“We’ll head to Brainerd, one of my favorite tracks on tour, and we’ve got a great hot rod right now,” Capps said. “We’re getting to the end of the season. We can see Indy in the distance and the Countdown beyond that, so right now, our focus is going to Brainerd and seeing if we can’t steal another BIR trophy.”
Capps and the NAPA Auto Parts Toyota GR Supra will be back on track in just a few days at the NHRA Brainerd Nationals, Aug. 17-20, at Brainerd International Raceway in Brainerd, Minnesota.
Qualified: No. 2 (3.950 E.T. at 314.17 MPH)
Elimination Round Results:
E1: 4.337 E.T. at 272.17 MPH defeated Dave Richards 5.828 E.T. at 119.72 MPH
E2: 4.977 E.T. at 158.95 MPH defeated by J.R. Todd 3.960 E.T. at 324.36 MPH