Ron Capps won last year’s Funny Car championship battle on the final day of the season in Pomona, finishing just three points ahead of Robert Hight in one of the closest conclusions in NHRA history.
Capps entered the Countdown in second place and he and Hight each won two of the first four events – Hight in Reading and St. Louis and Capps in Charlotte and Dallas. The Dallas win was huge as he again beat Hight, this time in the semifinals, then bested Hagan in the final.
Hight’s lead over Capps was just 10 points entering the final two events, but Tasca knocked out Capps in round two in Las Vegas, and Hight and Hagan both went to the final.
Entering the season finale, Capps was 61 points behind Hight and Hagan 63 back. With 30 points per round awarded in Pomona, both needed to try to cut Hight’s lead down to less than 60. Capps had a miserable first day and was barely qualified after Q2. The team again diagnosed their problem and, in a championship-crucial run — and perhaps the single most important run of the season — Capps fired off a stunning 3.837 that not only earned him four session points but also the 10 points awarded to the field leader. When the math was done, Hight’s lead over Capps was down to 57.
Hagan’s hopes ended early Sunday with a first-round loss to Steven Densham, and all eyes turned toward a possible semifinal clash between Hight and Capps. A win by Capps and then a victory in the final would clinch the title, but it never got that far. Tasca upset Hight in round two, and then Capps beat Tasca in the semifinals to take a three-point lead.
In a rule since rescinded for 2023, a five-point centerline violation still was a possibility in the final round against Cruz Pedregon, Capps could not be crowned.
“Right away, I’m thinking, ‘OK, do I stage the car and idle down? Do I hit the gas and just coast down? Do we even make a run?’ I had a lot of thoughts,” said Capps. “There were a lot of fans out there, and I didn’t want to let anybody down, but we couldn’t risk crossing the centerline.
“Even when we fired the car, I still didn’t know what I was going to do. I did a long burnout, three times as long as I’ve done the last three years. I staged and hit the gas, and it was hauling, and I didn’t see Cruz or hear him. I inched it over a little bit to the left side of the groove because we had already asked NHRA if a guardwall hit was the same as a centerline cross, and they told us no. It really started hauling as the clutch came in, but I decided to shut it off early [880 feet, according to the data recorder]. It still went 3.85 to his 3.83, so I was a little mad at myself, and it would have been tough to beat him, but I would have been the biggest and dumbest team owner ever if I crossed the centerline. But Sunday night, every crew chief and driver went out of their way to come to me, [and] that was the coolest thing ever to watch when nobody expected me to run it down.”
Capps, who had heartbreakingly lost the 2012 championship to Jack Beckman by two points and the 2005 crown by eight, won the championship by just three points over Hight.
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Hector Arana Sr.