Cap Caps Capps’ Qualifying Effort at Winternationals

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 20 2022

Ron Capps blazed his way to the pole in Funny Car at the Winternationals on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA)

Ron Capps Motorsports secured its first trophy case item _ a bright yellow cap _ after qualifying on-pole Saturday for the 2022 season-opening 62nd annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals.

Capps _ the two-time/reigning NHRA Funny Car world champion _ will start his first race as team owner/driver against longtime rival John Force Sunday at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif.

Capps powered his Dodge Charger to a 1,000-foot pass in 3.857-seconds at 332.43 mph during Saturday’s third round of time trials to earn P1 following an earlier impromptu lecture from “Brute” Force. The 16-time world champ had to pedal his Chevrolet Camaro SS during Saturday’s final pass after his flopper rattled its rear tires before stopping the clock at 7.164-seconds.

“We’ve got John Force (Sunday), so you can’t celebrate,” said Capps, who announced his exit from the Don Schumacher Racing stable in December. “He’s 16th but you never count Force out _ ever. He came over Friday and pulled me out of the tow vehicle and gave me a pep talk like he was my team-owner, and that was pretty cool. Every time you count him out, you get your ass handed to you. He’s our Tom Brady out here as far as I’m concerned.

“Is (going against Force in Round 1) worth having the hat? Yeah. Would you want to go up against him when he seems like he’s struggling and backed into a corner? No. All I can say is…this yellow No. 1 hat means a lot. To start my career as a team-owner from this position, it’s huge.” 

Brittany Force (Top Fuel) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) also qualified No. 1 at the first of 22 races on the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series schedule.

Capps, who made his NHRA debut during the 1997 Winternationals driving for drag racing legend Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, unloaded with a 3.903-second lap Friday evening, earning a bonus point for clocking the third-quickest run of the round. During Saturday’s first qualifying session, crew chiefs Dean “Guido” Antonelli and John Medlen gave Capps a car that launched him to the top of the Q2 timing sheet at 3.923-seconds.

“It’s great to get the No. 1 spot and show that we can run with the best of them,” Capps said. “But that 92 from Q2 was even more impressive to me, because we did that in the heat and we were half-a-tenth or so ahead of everybody else. We know we’ll have similar conditions (Sunday). So, to show we can throw down in the heat, and then come back up and do the same thing in cooler conditions, it just instills so much confidence in me.”

A resident of Carlsbad, Calif., Capps will start P1 for the 30th time in his career and sixth at famed Pomona before a fan contingent including his parents as they celebrate the debut of RCM.

“We know we have what it takes as a team, we know we have the parts, the people,” Capps said. “I always say, ‘I wouldn’t want to race the NAPA car.’ It’s just a car that always goes down the racetrack and it’s tough to beat.

“We have our DSM Precision Manufacturing chassis and parts, and we won a championship last year with the same equipment. I wouldn’t want to drive any race car other than a Don Schumacher Racing chassis. John Medlen is working in the machine shop still, and we have a great alliance with DSM.”

Meanwhile, Force and his Chevrolet Camaro SS squeezed onto the ladder via a 4.240-second pass at 216.45 mph during Q2 on Saturday. “Well, we’re in the show. That’s all that matters,” said Force, a 72-year-old resident of Yorba Linda, Calif. “We’ll be OK (Sunday) _ new day, cooler conditions, we ran good at testing so we’ll figure it out. We just have to go out, take this BlueDEF Chevy A-to-B and go some rounds.”

Robert Hight, a three-time world champion from John Force Racing, qualified his Camaro second at 3.861 at 331.36. Three-time world champ Matt Hagan, runnerup to then-DSR teammate Capps last season, qualified his Charger third at 3.886 and 329.34 in his debut for the first-year Tony Stewart Racing organization.

Sunday’s eliminations will be broadcast on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) during three-hours of same-day/delayed action beginning at 10 p.m. (EST).


Top Fuel’s top gun during qualifying throughout the 2021 season, Brittany Force rolled to another No. 1 spot Saturday at Pomona.

Force covered the 1,000-foot distance in 3.661-seconds at 333.91 mph in the final qualifying session to secure her 33rd career pole. Brit drove to 12 P1s last season and is bidding today for her first career Winternationals victory. Force will race Ron August in the opening round of eliminations.

“It feels awesome just to be back out here at my home track, starting a new season with the Monster Energy/Flav-R-Pac team,” said Force, whose car is tuned by co-crew chiefs David Grubnic and Mac Savage. “I’m excited to be back with all of them, doing what we love. Even better to go No. 1 first race of the season _ it just pumps all of us up to see what we can do.”

Force, a resident of Yorba Linda, Calif., is among the competitors pleased to see the season start at Pomona following an unprecedented summertime edition of the WinterNats in 2021 due to health concerns associated with COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I love it here in Pomona,” Brit said. “I grew up here, sitting in the stands watching my dad (John). So this is a very special track to me. It’s where my love of drag racing began. I have so many great memories here, standing in the Winner’s Circle with my dad and my sisters. Standing in my own Winner’s Circle in 2017 when we won the championship. So to win here at the opening of the season, that’s what we’re going for. That’s why we’re here.”

Justin Ashley, the provisional No. 1 qualifier on Friday, took second at 3.676 at 331.45 with Mike Salinas third via his 3.677 at 329.02, also from Friday. JFR’s Austin Prock jumped to fourth Saturday with his pass of 3.711 at 331.85.

Native Texan Steve Torrence, the four-time/reigning world champ, qualified sixth in his family-owned Capco Contractors/Toyota dragster and will open against Doug Foley.


Chasing her first career Winternationals victory, Erica Enders qualified P1 after a quarter-mile pass in 6.521-seconds at 210.44 mph. The four-time world champion earned her 24th career No. 1 qualifier.

Enders will open eliminations in her Chevrolet Camaro SS against Cristian Cuadra and his Ford Mustang in Pro Stock’s 900th career race. Sunday’s winner will receive a special trophy along with the traditional Wally to commemorate the landmark “Factory Hot Rod” event.

Enders, who won her world titles in 2014-15 and 2019-20, finished 107 points/five-plus rounds behind Greg Anderson of KB Racing last season. The five-time/reigning world champ, Anderson qualified fourth in his Hendrickcars.com Camaro SS in a bid to bag an historic 100th career victory.

Enders and her Oklahoma-based team went into the offseason last November searching for additional horsepower.

“I feel like this is the best race car we’ve had in a long time,” Enders said of her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Camaro SS. “We had a goal in the offseason to come out swinging. I feel like we have something to prove and the guys went to work hard in the engine shop. To lay down three consistent runs like that during the three qualifying sessions gives you confidence heading into race day.

“I just try to focus on keeping it as a normal race. I just go up and try to control every aspect in my lane with my race car. We’ve been fortunate enough to battle it out for a lot of really cool awards and this 900th event for Pro Stock, it would definitely mean a lot to take that bad boy home.”

Defending event winner Aaron Stanfield qualified his Camaro second at 6.527 and 210.37 with Kyle Koretsky third after his Friday run of 6.528 at 209.20 in another KB Racing Camaro.


Sunday’s first-round eliminations pairings for the 62nd annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, the first of 22 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series. Pairings based upon results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings:

Top Fuel _1. Brittany Force, 3.661-seconds, 333.91 mph vs. 16. Ron August, 4.375, 194.74; 2. Justin Ashley, 3.676, 331.45 vs. 15. Jim Maroney, 3.960, 294.24; 3. Mike Salinas, 3.677, 329.02 vs. 14. Buddy Hull, 3.905, 288.95; 4. Austin Prock, 3.711, 331.85 vs. 13. Clay Millican, 3.789, 317.12; 5. Doug Kalitta, 3.720, 324.90 vs. 12. Tony Schumacher, 3.787, 315.86; 6. Steve Torrence, 3.725, 315.34 vs. 11. Doug Foley, 3.771, 311.63; 7. Leah Pruett, 3.726, 328.54 vs. 10. Antron Brown, 3.756, 324.83; 8. Shawn Langdon, 3.740, 325.22 vs. 9. Josh Hart, 3.755, 323.19. 

Did Not Qualify _ 17. Scott Farley, 5.728, 117.29.

Funny Car _ 1. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.857, 332.43 vs. 16. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.240, 216.45; 2. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.861, 331.36 vs. 15. Jason Rupert, Ford Mustang, 4.237, 304.53; 3. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.886, 329.34 vs. 14. Chad Green, Mustang, 4.147, 295.08; 4. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 3.906, 325.22 vs. 13. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 4.115, 306.81; 5. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Supra, 3.945, 326.95 vs. 12. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.105, 305.29; 6. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.956, 327.43 vs. 11. Jeff Arend, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.092, 287.23; 7. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.962, 325.37 vs. 10. Tony Jurado, Mustang, 4.044, 314.46; 8. J.R. Todd, Supra, 3.985, 324.59 vs. 9. Bobby Bode, Mustang, 3.993, 291.07. 

Did Not Qualify _ 17. Jeff Diehl, 4.592, 190.92; 18. Paul Lee, 5.435, 148.09; 19. Gary Densham, 5.600, 145.30; 20. Alex Miladinovich, 6.471, 92.51.

Pro Stock _ 1. Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.521, 210.44 vs. 16. Cristian Cuadra, Ford Mustang, 6.599, 209.20; 2. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.527, 210.37 vs. 15. Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.592, 209.43; 3. Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.528, 209.20 vs. 14. Fernando Cuadra Jr., Mustang, 6.581, 208.68; 4. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.536, 209.59 vs. 13. Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.577, 209.65; 5. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.547, 209.01 vs. 12. John Cerbone, Camaro, 6.575, 209.79; 6. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.551, 210.11 vs. 11. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.573, 208.14; 7. Camrie Caruso, Camaro, 6.553, 207.43 vs. 10. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.573, 208.65; 8. Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.555, 208.23 vs. 9. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.563, 209.14. 

Did Not Qualify _ 17. Alan Prusiensky, 6.622, 207.56; 18. Steve Graham, 6.675, 208.36; 19. Fernando Cuadra, 6.865, 203.00; 20. Alex Laughlin, 8.964, 106.87.

(Editor’s Note: John Sturbin is a Texas-based journalist specializing in motorsports. During a near 30-year career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he won the Bloys Britt Award for top motorsports story of the year (1991) as judged by The Associated Press; received the National Hot Rod Association’s Media Award (1997) and several in-house Star-Telegram honors. He also was inaugural recipient of the Texas Motor Speedway Excellence in Journalism Award (2009). His list of freelance clients has included Texas Motor Speedway, the Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, NASCAR Wire Service and Ford Racing).


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 20 2022
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