As the regular season champion going into the NHRA Countdown to the Championship, Ron Capps needed a strong points-earning weekend at the NHRA Reading Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway. While he fell short of a third consecutive event win in his NAPA Auto Parts Toyota GR Supra, the three-time and reigning world champion did reach the semifinals after qualifying No. 2. He slipped to second in the points standings, though he has a consistent three-second hot rod going into the next race in just a few days.
Under the guidance of crew chief Dean 'Guido' Antonelli, Capps went down the track in all four qualifying sessions with passes well into the three-second zone. His worst pass was a 3.938-second blast in the first session, and his best was a 3.879 E.T. at 333.99 MPH in the final session that put Capps second going into race day. He collected a total of three bonus points over the course of qualifying.
Capps' consistency carried over into Sunday eliminations, as he started the day with a 3.903-second pass to beat Dave Richards. It was a battle between the two winningest drivers in Funny Car history in the second round when Capps paired up with John Force. Capps moved first and held the lead through the finish line, recording a 3.899 E.T. at 326.40 MPH to advance to the semifinals against Robert Hight.
Rain showers after the quarterfinals forced NHRA officials to push the rest of eliminations into Monday. True to his record of leaving first in 71% of his semifinal matches, Capps grabbed a holeshot advantage, but he lost traction and had to coast through the finish line while Hight made a clean pass to advance. Hight went on to win the event, taking over the points lead from Capps in the process.
"If Maple Grove is any indication on how the Countdown to the Championship is going to be, fans are in for a heck of a ride," said Capps, the track record holder in E.T. and speed. "We had a great weekend, starting out with qualifying No. 2. Guido and our NAPA AutoCare team did such a great job going down the track all four runs, putting great numbers on the board, and big speeds. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to the final round. We had to wait until Monday, and that’s tough on a lot of these teams, especially on back-to-back weekends like we have from here to Charlotte the following weekend. But that’s why I brag about the ‘Get Up and Go’ on our team. We got through some tough rounds to get to the semifinals, but I think that’s a great start to our Countdown. If we can’t win, at least we’ll get some solid points."
The NHRA Reading Nationals was the start to Ron Capps Motorsports' 'Capps Trick' campaign, where Capps is pursuing his third consecutive world championship and fourth overall. Last season, he started the Countdown in second and went on to win two races in four final-round appearances before winning his first championship as a team owner.
Capps' next opportunity to earn points toward another season title will come in just a few days as the NHRA Camping World Series returns to zMAX Dragway Sept. 22-24 for the betway NHRA Carolina Nationals, where Capps is the defending event winner.