It took two race cars to do it, but Ron Capps extended the Don Schumacher Racing win streak in the Funny Car class to ten races following his final round win over Tim Wilkerson at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals. Celebrating crew chief Rahn Tobler’s birthday, Capps drove his NAPA Dodge to a close 3.937 to 3.945 victory, but in this case the numbers don’t begin to tell the story. Capps ran the final with a new and untested car after damaging his primary race car in his semifinal win against teammate Matt Hagan.
Capps made a monster run in the semifinals with a 3.89 that stood for low elapsed time of the weekend, but it came with a steep price tag after he wounded an engine at the finish line. Sliding in his own oil, Capps did a masterful job keeping the car away from the wall and avoiding Hagan but the team elected to roll out a spare car in order to contest the final. The thought of racing new car with a couple of half-track test runs on it in a final round didn’t scare Tobler or Capps, who has now won 66 races in his career, including two of the last three this season.
“To be able to win four (Gatornationals) is pretty wild,” Capps said. “We put a spare car together that went out on its first full run and went 3.93 and won the Gatornationals. To run that well and have it be in the final round of the Gatornationals, it’s unbelievable. Rahn had it perfect and I felt pretty good about it. The best part is keeping the streak alive for Don Schumacher Racing. The guys on this team bring out on the best in me, and those semifinals were a big round. We had to make points up and we came through.”
Capps' win also extends a lenghty win streak for the DSR team that extends back to last season's fall Charlotte event. Teammates Capps, Hagan, Johnson Jr. and Beckman have managed to shut out the opposition over the last ten events. The last non-DSR driver to win was Robert Hight.
Prior to his semifinal drama, Capps was cruising through eliminations with victories against John Smith and Alexis DeJoria. Capps ran a 3.999 in round one and needed almost all of it since Smith made one of the quickest runs of his career with a 4.025. Capps’ win against DeJoria’s RoKit/ABK Beer was also close with the NAPA team posting a 3.968 to DeJoria’s 4.014.
Wilkerson, most recently a winner at the 2016 Charlotte Four-Wide race, probably deserved a better fate after putting together a consistent string of three-second runs in his wins against Terry Haddock, Tommy Johnson Jr., and Bob Tasca III. Wilkerson defeated Tasca’s Motorcraft Quicklane Ford on a slight holeshot, 3.958 to 3.955, crossing the finish line first by just .001-second.
The battle for the Mello Yello championship took a turn in the quarterfinal round when Hagan topped incoming leader Jack Beckman for the fourth time in four races this season. Hagan came into the Gainesville event 35-points behind Beckman with Tommy Johnson Jr. holding down third, 57-points back.