In a dramatic final round to close out the 2022 season, defending NHRA Funny Car world champion Ron Capps clinched his third series title, and the first for Ron Capps Motorsports, on Sunday at the NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Capps drove the NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota GR Supra to a runner-up finish to win his second consecutive championship crown, becoming the first Funny Car driver to win back-to-back championships in 20 years.
Starting the weekend ranked second in the point standings behind Robert Hight, Capps overcame a 61-point deficit to lock up the 2022 NHRA Camping World Series Funny Car title. The Southern California native qualified No. 1 with a 3.837-second blast at 337.33-mph, collecting six bonus points along the way in qualifying. Those bonus points moved Capps to just under two rounds behind Hight going into eliminations.
Capps defeated Jeff Arend and Tim Wilkerson in the first two rounds of eliminations. When Hight lost to Bob Tasca III in the second round, the door was open for Capps to take the title. Capps then won his semifinal match with Tasca, passing Hight for the points lead. Capps secured the championship when he made a clean pass in the final, losing with a 3.85-second pass at 333.16 mph to Cruz Pedregon’s 3.839-second effort.
Capps started the 2022 season as a team owner, forming Ron Capps Motorsports after winning the 2021 championship with longtime team owner Don Schumacher and Don Schumacher Racing. Even with the added challenges that come with the owner/operator role, Capps was able to come out on top yet again.
“Anything you put your mind to you can do with great people around you,” said Capps, who’s just the seventh Funny Car driver to win as many as three titles. “I can’t even begin to say what it feels like right now. This is for the NAPA AutoCare people, all the NAPA AutoCare owners – 6,000 strong – and for everybody at home that puts on a Ron Capps and NAPA jersey watching on the couch on Fox Sports; Gearwrench; and of course, Toyota coming on board. But my family more than anything, we have taken on a role this year that’s been unbelievable. I’m sure you’ve seen me age quite a bit in the last year or so.”
Capps and the NAPA team wasted no time putting together an impressive championship defense campaign as they made a run for the 2022 title. Continuing under the tuning guidance of crew chiefs Dean ‘Guido’ Antonelli and John Medlen, the newly formed Ron Capps Motorsports launched with a statement-making debut when they raced to a runner-up finish from the pole position at the 2022 season-opening NHRA Winternationals in February. While they came up just short of capturing the victory, Capps and his NAPA team didn’t have to wait long before finding the winner’s circle.
At the fourth race of the season, the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas, Capps went wire-to-wire, driving his machine to victory from the top of the Funny Car ladder to score his 69th professional triumph and win No. 1 for Ron Capps Motorsports. Later that month, Capps was thrilled to announce a partnership with Toyota, becoming the manufacturer’s third Funny Car driver. Capps took ownership of the brand-new Toyota GR Supra Funny Car body at the Charlotte race, and had the distinct honor of becoming Toyota’s first driver to power the new body style to victory when he picked up his second win of the season in Bristol, Tenn. before piloting the Supra to its first No. 1 qualifier spot in Norwalk, Ohio a few weeks later.
Among Capps’ other season highlights were his big win at the Indianapolis race where he ran the table, notching the No. 1 qualifier honors and winning the Pep Boys All-Star Call Out specialty race before powering his NAPA Supra to victory to win his first U.S. Nationals trophy in more than 25 attempts. Capps then went on to score a pair of Countdown victories in Charlotte and Ennis, Texas, which helped to place him solidly into the championship hunt heading into the final two races of the season, and set up an epic three-way battle between Capps, Hight, and fellow championship hopeful Matt Hagan. For their efforts, Capps and the NAPA team never dropped below third on the Funny Car leaderboard throughout the entirety of the season.
While Capps assumed the points lead after his semifinal victory at the Finals, he wasn’t immediately declared the champion. The points lead over Hight was so slim that a points deduction in the final round, caused by crossing the centerline or a similar infraction, would jeopardize the championship. Still, Capps gave it his all in the final round, making his quickest pass of eliminations in the runner-up effort.
“I’m sure there were some upset people on the starting line – everybody thought I was going to shut off,” Capps said. “And I had planned on it if I didn’t see Cruz. I hugged the wall all the way down. I hope everybody appreciates that I ran it through the finish line because that was a hard decision to make. It was for the fans. I did the longest burnout I’ve done in a long time – for the fans. I can say honestly we didn’t go out there and shut it off.”
While the NAPA team’s season-long battle for the crown culminated in the ultimate prize on Sunday, the day had a slight bittersweet feel to it, as it marked the end of co-crew chief John Medlen’s time on the NHRA tour.
“To send Medlen off and to send one of these (Wallys) to his cabin in Georgia, it’s going to be phenomenal,” Capps said. “He means so much to us.”
Capps and team will continue under the leadership of Antonelli, who Capps knew for many years before the two started working together at the start of the 2021 season.
“We both grew up crew guys – I met him as a crew guy at John Force’s,” Capps said. “We feel like two kids playing marbles in the field. It’s phenomenal that we can go have fun and do this.”
Following their Sunday afternoon championship celebration, Capps and the NAPA team will be honored on Monday evening at the NHRA Awards Ceremony in Temecula, Calif.