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Brittany Force, Ron Capps, Troy Coughlin Jr & Angelle Sampey Top Qualifiers At Auto Club NHRA Finals

POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 12, 2022) – Ron Capps did his part to add some additional drama to the weekend as he capped off Saturday with a statement pass that placed him right back into championship contention.

Capps, the two-time and defending NHRA Camping World Series Funny Car champion took his NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota GR Supra on a blistering 3.837-second ride at a track record speed of 337.33-mph during the final qualifying session on Saturday night at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona to launch to the No. 1 spot on the NHRA Finals elimination ladder. The run gave him four crucial bonus points, which narrowed the point deficit between No. 2-ranked Capps and No. 1-ranked Robert Hight to 57. With the event’s unique points-and-a-half scoring format, Capps is now within two round wins of Hight as he looks to surpass him for the lead and claim a third Funny Car championship, and first for Ron Capps Motorsports in its rookie season.

Capps began the race sitting 61 points behind Hight and with the goal of capturing as many bonus points as possible throughout the weekend’s four qualifying sessions to bring the margin down to below 60, which would mean he’d have to go two rounds further than Hight on race day, as opposed to three. The weekend got off to a rocky start, with Capps’ machine struggling to get down the track in both of Friday’s qualifying sessions. By the time qualifying had come to an end on Friday night, Capps was sitting in the No. 17 spot on the ladder, Hight still carried a three-round lead, and Matt Hagan, who started the weekend ranked third, had gained two points on Capps. But, Saturday was a new day. Crew chiefs Dean ‘Guido’ Antonelli and John Medlen tuned Capps’ machine to a 3.864 E.T. at 334.15-mph in Q3, launching Capps up from 17th to fifth, and earning two bonus points in the process. Feeling comfortable knowing they were safely qualified, the crew chief duo turned up the wick for Q4 and sent Capps rocketing down the track on the record-setting ride to claim his sixth No. 1 qualifier of the season and 35th of his career.

“Man, what a turn of events,” said a jubilant Capps on Saturday night. “I got on the radio and I was screaming and yelling; it was like going down the road to Disneyland and getting on Space Mountain for the first time as a kid. I was fighting for my life to keep (my car) between the guardrail and the centerline and it was just hunting and moving. A lot of times, you think that would take E.T. away, but I felt the clutch come in sooner than normal, and I could just tell. Yesterday we had issues; it turned out it was ignition issues, and we found it, but today it just had that max cackle that (former Funny Car racer) Gary Scelzi always talked about.

“We’re not going to see these conditions again tomorrow, so it’s great to end this way. We started the season with the No. 1 qualifier at the Winternationals as a new team owner, and I thought that was crazy, and how much better could it get? Then, we go on to win five races and get the pole here at the end. This is what I talk about when you get into a race car like this. You wish you could make those big runs at the big moments, and when you actually have the capability, and the personnel, and the tools, and obviously the sponsors with NAPA and Toyota, you can actually strap in and say, not only do ‘I wish I can’ or ‘I think we can,’ but ‘I know we can’ go out and throw down with the best. It’s a great feeling; what a way to end qualifying.”

With the way the Funny Car elimination ladder shook out, there’s a possibility Capps and Hight could meet in the semifinals on Sunday. If Capps defeats Hight, he would need to go on to win the event in order to be crowned the 2022 NHRA Funny Car world champion. If Hight is eliminated in either the first or second round, Capps would need to advance to the semifinals or finals, respectively.

Of the potential semifinal showdown with Hight, Capps said “It’s just an emotional roller coaster. I forgot all about the math, and then someone said that got us three points under (60). Then, I find out that we’re on the same side of the ladder, and it just gets better and better.

“But, it’s a different day tomorrow,” added the Carlsbad, Calif. resident. “New track (surface), new people, new opponents, big moments. I’m going to wake up tomorrow in my motorhome trackside and have a chance of possibly winning a world championship once again in NHRA. Possibly not, but there’s a good chance. There’s not a better feeling than to wake up and stand here and realize that as a kid, I used to watch the big moments, and now I’m part of some of them.”

Capps’ run for the 2022 NHRA Camping World Series Funny Car championship will begin with a first-round matchup versus No. 16 qualifier Jeff Arend on Sunday morning.

Robert Hight, who is trying to join Don “the Snake” Prudhomme, Kenny Bernstein and teammate John Force as one of the sport’s only four-time Funny Car champions, will start his Automobile Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS from the No. 4 position after a best of 3.849 seconds.

Hight’s Top 4 starting position is his 19th in 22 races this year in the NHRA national record-holding Auto Club Chevy tuned by Jimmy Prock and Chris Cunningham. A 61-time tour winner, Hight will begin his drive to a potential fourth championship against No. 13 qualifier Chad Green. Significantly, he will start eliminations 57 points ahead of No. 1 qualifier Ron Capps and 62 ahead of Matt Hagan.

“Two great runs today for this Auto Club Chevy team. It gives us something to work with for tomorrow,” High said. “It’s going to be an exciting day of racing, that’s for sure. These Auto Club guys have worked hard all season, tomorrow it pays off. We just need to keep our heads down and focus. It’s ours to lose, we know that, and we know what we need to do. I’m ready to get it going and I know every single one of these guys is too.”

In Top Fuel, Brittany Force starts Sunday’s 57th Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona as the No. 1 qualifier on the strength of a 3.641 second performance in a Monster Energy / Flav-R-Pac dragster she drove to a track record-setting and all-time best Top Fuel speed of 338.94 mph.

Brittany grabbed 13 of the maximum 16 qualifying bonus points over the two days and, as a result, will carry a 26-point advantage over second place Justin Ashley into Sunday eliminations where she will oppose No. 16 qualifier Steve Chrisman in the first round. The No. 1 start is the 2017 Champion’s 10th of this season and 22nd over the last two campaigns. That gives her 42 career No. 1s, third most in team history behind her dad (165) and Hight (77).

“I feel very good going into race day tomorrow. We had four consistent runs, got that No. 1 spot and we picked up some bonus points, so this Monster Energy / Flav-R-Pac team is going into tomorrow feeling good,” said Force. “I've been here before, battling out to the final day for the championship, that gives me a little bit of confidence. We're out ahead, but not by very much. It could change so quickly, but this team is incredible, what we've done all season long, what we've done this weekend, we just need to keep on hitting our numbers like we have been.”

With the Pro Stock championship already being captured by Erica Enders in Las Vegas, all eyes were on Troy Coughlin Jr. as he took his Elite Motorsports Chevy to the top spot.

Coughlin Jr. ran a 6.508 to get by Friday's leader Greg Anderson for the pole. Coughlin, winner of two events this season in his Camaro, will be paired with Australian Shane Tucker when round one begins on Sunday. Coughlin entered the Pomona event as the third-ranked driver in the class but has the ability to catch teammate Aaron Stanfield for the No. 2 spot, behind Erica Enders.

“I made two clean runs today and that’s what counts,” said Coughlin. “It’s special to be racing here in Pomona. There is nothing like pulling through the breezeway in front of the tower and looking down that 1,320. My hat is off to the guys at Elite Performance. They work hard and with a lot of passion and it shows. This [pole] means a ton. I’ve been coming to the races since I could walk and being the low qualifier here is right near the top of the list for my professional career.

“Tomorrow is a different day,” Coughlin said. “This class is stacked so you’ve got to execute on race day but I’m ready. I wish I could go out there and make a few more runs right now.”

Behind Coughlin and Anderson is a tightly bunched and talented pack that includes Dallas Glenn, Aaron Stanfield, Deric Kramer, Kyle Koretsky, Bo Butner, and Mason McGaha. Most of the fields this year in Pro Stock have been tight, but few rival the Pomona show as there is just a tenth of a second separating Coughlin from Tucker. Alan Prusiensky and Kenny Delco put forth solid efforts during the final session with matching 6.62 runs, but that wasn’t quick enough to crack the fast field.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, no one was able to touch Angelle Sampey’s track-record 6.703 run from Friday, but several riders came close. Matt Smith, in hot pursuit of a record-tying sixth championship, finished as the No. 2 seed with a 6.719 while championship rival Joey Gladstone overcame some early struggles to land in the No. 3 spot with a 6.720 on his Reed Motorsports Suzuki.

Sampey will kick off eliminations by racing Katie Justice while Smith can lock up the championship by beating Michael Phillips, who has announced his retirement as a rider after this event.

Four-time world champ Eddie Krawiec suffered with an electrical problem in his Vance & Hines Suzuki and the team could not find or fix the problem during all four runs. As a result, Krawiec will not race on Sunday for the first time since the Atlanta race in 2007.

Competition continues at the Auto Club Finals with eliminations at 11 a.m. Sunday. Television coverage will air on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) beginning with qualifying highlights at 2 p.m. ET and concluding with final eliminations from 4-to-7 p.m. ET.

See the full recap by NHRA National Dragster staff:

See Saturday's photo gallery from NHRA National Dragster staff:

Content: ABM Communications / John Force Racing PR / NHRA

Photo: NHRA / Auto Imagery / ABM Communications / RPM


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