POMONA, Calif. (April 2, 2023) – With four NHRA Winternationals triumphs, Ron Capps was hoping his ‘drive for five’ would result in his day ending in the In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip winner’s circle. Capps, who was racing in his second consecutive final-round appearance of the season on Sunday, made a strong effort but came up just short of accomplishing his goal in the finals to Matt Hagan.
The two-time defending Funny Car world champion struggled in qualifying during the weekend and had to bump his way into the field on his last attempt. It was an unfamiliar position for Capps who clinched six No. 1 qualifier positions in 2022 and started from the pole at the 2023 season opener. In his NAPA Auto Parts Toyota GR Supra, Capps rocketed to the No. 8 starting position with a run of 3.943 seconds at 327.14 mph and locked in a spot to compete on race day.
“I said I wasn’t really worried, but to not be qualified going into the final session, you do feel that extra pressure,” said Capps following the event. “I told our NAPA AutoCare team that it’s the same type of pressure we felt trying to win a championship on Sunday of last year. It is the same type of pressure but a different situation. But, it builds character, of course. I looked around when I was sitting in the car and there was no way my team was even worried and that made me feel a lot calmer as a driver.”
Sunday’s elimination rounds began with a first-round match-up against Paul Lee, who Capps has never lost to on race day. The three-time world champion grabbed an early advantage and never trailed in the contest to advance to the second round with his winning run of 3.947 at 325.69. Capps then faced No. 1 qualifier Cruz Pedregon next and hammered past the former world champion at the starting line by clocking another 3.9-second pass for the win. Next on his path to the finals was Bob Tasca, who grabbed an early advantage, but Capps powered by his challenger on his way to a winning run of 3.987 seconds.
The finals, which was the 142nd overall for Capps, featured a duel with his former teammate Matt Hagan. Unfortunately for Capps, his car began to push towards the centerline and he was forced to lift off the throttle, allowing Hagan to snag the victory.
“Great weekend here, almost a fantastic weekend. You hate to get that close and not finish,” stated Capps. “To start from the eighth position, and go through a lot of things that were obstacles for other teams, I thrive in those moments with ‘Guido’ (Dean Antonelli) and our team because they are so good about adapting. Two finals in a row is great. The car was in front of Hagan on that one and I thought we were going to hang onto it, but I couldn’t keep it from going to the centerline and had to lift. I told Guido to just download that same run in Vegas and we will start the week great. We have been champions at that event and I can’t wait to go back.”
Capps is the defending NHRA Four-Wide Nationals champion and has six overall wins at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Capps and the NAPA Auto Parts Toyota GR Supra Funny Car team will begin the event ranked second in the Countdown to the Championship point standings.
Qualified: No. 8 (3.943 E.T. at 327.74 MPH)
Elimination Round Results:
E1: 3.947 E.T. at 325.69 MPH defeated Paul Lee 4.412 E.T. at 201.97 MPH
E2: 3.997 E.T. at 324.44 MPH defeated Cruz Pedregon 4.598 E.T. at 178.66 MPH
E3: 3.987 E.T. at 323.89 MPH defeated Bob Tasca 4.078 E.T. at 298.47 MPH
E4: 4.303 E.T. at 211.13 MPH defeated by Matt Hagan 3.967 E.T. at 328.06 MPH