BRAINERD, Minn. (August 20, 2023) – Three-time and reigning NHRA Funny Car world champion Ron Capps secured a milestone victory Sunday afternoon when he defeated Robert Hight in the final round of the NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway (BIR). After qualifying No. 1 for the 38th time in his career, Capps drove his NAPA Auto Parts Toyota GR Supra to his 75th NHRA national event victory. He also moved into the points lead with just one race left before the NHRA Countdown to the Championship kicks off.
Qualifying saw highs and lows for Capps and his Ron Capps Motorsports team. A broken wheelie bar prevented Capps from making the first qualifying run on Friday, but he bounced back in the evening session by throwing down a 3.894 E.T. at 330.23 MPH. It was the quickest pass of the session, giving Capps three bonus points. It also held up as the quickest pass of all four qualifying sessions to give Capps his second No. 1 qualifier of the season and second at BIR.
Capps started eliminations ranked second in points behind Matt Hagan. When Hagan lost his first-round race ahead of Capps, it opened the door for the NAPA team to gain ground. Capps started with a 3.906-second single pass, as first-round opponent Jim Campbell was shut off after the burnout. He dipped back into the 3.80s with a 3.892 E.T. at 333.08 MPH to set low E.T. of the round and take out a tire-smoking Tim Wilkerson in the second round. Capps also secured a spot in the next Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge with the win. In a semifinal battle with the most recent event winner, Bob Tasca III, Capps laid down a 3.914-second effort to defeat Tasca, who smoked the tires. It was the quickest pass of the session once again, and the win moved Capps into the points lead.
Appearing in his second consecutive Brainerd final round, Capps lined up against fellow multi-time world champion Robert Hight. Capps used his best reaction time of the day to leave first on Hight, then he charged on to a 3.887-second pass at 332.75 MPH to finish ahead of Hight and his 3.900 E.T.
“Our NAPA guys work so well as a team and work so hard, and I just don’t want to make a mistake,” said Capps, who has 74 wins in Funny Car and one in Top Fuel. “Guido, I can see it in his eyes when he’s racing Jimmy Prock (Hight’s crew chief). Robert Hight and I talk about it all the time; it’s very cool because you know they’re going to push each other and sometimes one of them makes a mistake and pushes too hard. But as the conditions got better and better today, we were convinced they were probably going to go .85. That’s what Jimmy does, and Guido didn’t want to make a mistake and push too far, so the way I staged, the car probably went .86. I could hear Robert all the way down like a video game and I was like ‘c’mon baby, just make it,’ and it was a huge relief.”
Along with the milestone 75th career win, it was Capps’ second of the season and his seventh at Brainerd. His 75th win ties him with former Top Alcohol Funny Car champion and Top Fuel driver Pat Austin on NHRA’s all-time win list.
“First of all, 75 wins is crazy,” Capps said. “Pat Austin has been one of my heroes and I got to be around him early in my career as a crew guy, and I always strived to be Pat Austin. To watch him, ice in his veins, just some huge match-ups for me to stand behind their car back then. I used to look at the list and was like, ‘Pat Austin, 75 wins, that seems so out of this universe,’ so when I came around the corner after the final and saw a ’75 wins’ sign, it blew my mind.”
The Brainerd win was a special victory for Capps in numerous other ways as well. His wife’s family is from Minnesota and took part in the winner’s circle celebrations, joining NAPA executives and a whole host of passionate fans from BIR’s popular campground known as ‘The Zoo.’
“There’s something about this place,” said Capps, the unofficial ‘King of The Zoo.’ “My career started here with John Mitchell, and a conversation we had in the staging lanes. We make a point of going out and celebrating in the Zoo a little bit with everyone out there, and we did that again last night. We had two executives from NAPA who came last year, Marti Walsh and Katherine Wooten. They’re solely responsible for making sure that I had a sponsor when I decided to be a team owner. They went out in The Zoo and had so much fun, that they came back to Brainerd again this year. We took them out again last night.”
Capps’ move into the points lead came at an ideal time, as the NHRA regular season will wrap up in two weeks at the prestigious U.S. Nationals near Indianapolis. It’s a points-and-a-half race, giving racers the opportunity to rack up additional points going into the Countdown to the Championship portion of the season.
“We’ve got all different Funny Cars that have won races this year, but here we are with the points lead,” Capps said. “Before we even won the final round today, we had the points lead, so that tells you the consistency that we’ve had all year. You’re going to have to be good to beat the NAPA Supra because Guido doesn’t make many mistakes, so it’s such a confidence booster and it’s just a lot of fun right now. We set a goal of winning the regular season championship, and we’re one step closer to achieving that goal.”
Capps enters the U.S. Nationals, Aug. 30-Sept. 4, at Indianapolis Raceway Park as the defending event champion.
Qualified: No. 1 (3.894 E.T. at 330.23 MPH)
Elimination Round Results:
E1: 3.906 E.T. at 330.23 MPH defeated Jim Campbell (No Time, broke after the burnout)
E2: 3.892 E.T. at 333.08 MPH defeated Tim Wilkerson 8.517 E.T. at 107.19 MPH
E3: 3.914 E.T. at 327.66 MPH defeated Bob Tasca 8.814 E.T. at 88.17 MPH
E4: 3.887 E.T. at 332.75 MPH defeated Robert Hight 3.900 E.T. at 324.90 MPH