Ron Capps Achieves First Win of 2023 at Thunder Valley Nationals, Becomes Winningest Driver at Bristol

By Briar Starr, NHRA Staff Writer 

There were many close races this past season where 2022 NHRA Funny Car champion Ron Capps could have picked up the win. One of the heartbreaking losses this season was a few weeks ago in Chicago in the final round against Tim Wilkerson where Capps’ parachutes came loose as soon as he left the staging lane. 

Entering Bristol, Capps was eyeing redemption after that final-round loss in Chicago and a loss to Bob Tasca III on Saturday during the rain-delayed New England Nationals event. Not only did the New England Nationals race take place, but qualifying concluded as well. By the end of all four rounds, Capps qualified second with a speed of 3.962 at 318.92 mph entering Sunday’s competition. 

For the NAPA Racing driver’s first-round match, Capps squared up against No. 15 qualifier Dave Richards in E1. Capps got his first victory of the day by winning with a time of 3.964 at 328.94 mph after Richards’ car began to move around the track. Richards fell at an E.T. of 4.223 at 302.35 mph. 

In the second round of Funny Car, Capps would face familiar foe and 16-time Funny Car champion, John Force. Force had a victory over Kalitta Motorsports J.R. Todd in the first round to move forward. Unfortunately for Force, he failed to move on as his Funny Car began to shake and eventually came to a stop with a 6.143 at 108.43 mph. Capps meanwhile won with a 3.946 at 321.81 mph and continued to have a great race day and advance to the semi-finals.

In the semis, the California native competed against the Dan Wilkerson-tuned Funny Car of Chad Green. Green is not an opponent to be taken lightly as he has had a strong car as of late. However, his chances will have to wait another day, with Capps getting the better of him with a win of 3.918 at 328.86 mph over Green’s 4.003 at 321.73 mph. 

By achieving that win, Capps moved into the finals where he would face another similar opponent he’s faced multiple times in the past, which was Alexis DeJoria. For DeJoria’s efforts, she won over Cruz Pedregon, Bobby Bode, and Robert Hight to meet Capps at the end of the day. 

With the Wally in sight, the two drivers rolled up to the Christmas tree. DeJoria had yet to win this season and so had Capps, so both drivers were hungry for a win. While waiting for the tree to go green, she had accidentally deep-staged her car slightly ahead of Capps. Despite doing so, DeJoria was slow on the reaction time with a 0.113, as Capps was faster with a 0.049. 

Still, the two were competitive through the first few markers, but ultimately it was Capps who pulled away at the end with his 74th career victory. In addition, he became the winningest driver at Bristol Dragway by breaking a tie with Tony Schumacher by having seven at-track victories. 

“I was pretty stoked when we pulled up (for the final round) and all four nitro cars were Toyota teams,” Capps said. “Jwan (Smith), Paul (Flynn) and Slugger (Labbe), and all of the people that are here every weekend.

“People don’t understand that they send one of their trucks, like what goes to NASCAR races, to NHRA races for the support of our teams. It is unbelievable, the behind-the-scenes that you don’t hear about. So, very happy for Toyota.”

With the help of a victory, Capps is now the Funny Car points leader over Matt Hagan by 32 points heading into the “off-week.” 

“(Matt) Hagan has had us scrambling on it, him and Tony Stewart (owner),” Capps said. “That is huge. It’s a long year. It’s great on Monday morning to see that we’re the points leaders. That’s great, but it doesn’t really count until Sunday at Pomona.

“I can finally say that because we finally won one from behind when we won it on Sunday last year to get our third world championship. We are just trying to get wins and just get our consistency down, but this is huge. Great win.”

Official NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Funny Car Results 

  1. Ron Capps 
  2. Alexis DeJoria 
  3. Chad Green
  4. Robert Hight
  5. Matt Hagan
  6. Tim Wilkerson
  7. John Force
  8. Bobby Bode 
  9. Terry Haddock
  10. J.R. Todd 
  11. Mike McIntire
  12. Dave Richards
  13. Alex Laughlin 
  14. Bob Tasca III
  15. Dale Creasy Jr
  16. Cruz Pedregon 

Official NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Funny Car Points 

  1. Ron Capps, 612 points 
  2. Matt Hagan, -32 
  3. Robert Hight, -57
  4. Chad Green, -72
  5. Alexis DeJoria, -83
  6. Bob Tasca III, -115
  7. Tim Wilkerson, -140 
  8. John Force, -161
  9. Cruz Pedregon, -240
  10. J.R. Todd, -267 

Up Next: The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series will return after a week off at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, June 23-25.  

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