BRAINERD, Minn. (August 18, 2023) – Ron Capps powered the NAPA Auto Parts Toyota GR Supra to the provisional pole on Friday night at Brainerd International Raceway. The three-time and twice-defending Funny Car world champion clocked a 3.894 at 330.23 MPH time aboard his 11,000-horsepower machine during the second qualifying session to launch to the top of the field.
Capps’ race weekend at the NHRA Brainerd Nationals got off to an unusual start. As the Dean ‘Guido’ Antonelli-led team staged the car for the first qualifying round, they noticed a wheelie bar issue and wisely opted not to make the run. When they returned for the second round, ready to put a number on the timing sheets, they were faced with another challenge. One of the cars in the pair that ran before them caused a massive oildown delay, leading to a nearly hour-long clean-up. As the sun was setting on the track, conditions drastically changed during that time but Antonelli is always quick to adapt and tuned the NAPA Supra to a powerful 3.894 E.T., which held up to be the best run of the session.
“It was interesting today,” said Capps, reflecting on the day’s two qualifying rounds. “It’s very rare that our NAPA team doesn’t make a run. I can’t thank the guys enough for catching what they caught in Q1 because it could’ve been dangerous, and could’ve potentially hurt me or the car. So, another great moment for our crew guys for being so on the ball.
“Guido and I talked a little bit before the second run, and he saw the weather tomorrow is going to be hot and he knew there wasn’t a chance of moving up,” explained the No. 2 ranked Funny Car driver. “He said maybe we’ll take it easy and just get down the track and make sure we’re qualified, but he also kind of wanted to go for it. That’s the mentality that he has, which I love. So, we had a little bit of a conversation, and I told him, let’s just go for it. By the time we pulled up to the line, I wasn’t sure what he was going to do, but when I got to halftrack and the clutch locked up, I knew it was on a good run. When we got back, I asked him if he went for the pole, and he said no, I just ran what I thought the track would give us at that time. It just shows why Guido’s mentality of consistency is so important. We were first pair out after that oildown, so just an incredible job by Guido and our entire NAPA team. I also want to acknowledge Toyota. They give us so much help on the starting line. I can’t say enough about Slugger (Labbe) and his crew because we get data that I feel is, by far, so advantageous. Being part of the Toyota family has been such a great thing for us.”
Capps, a six-time Brainerd International Raceway event champion, will be seeking his second pole of the year and 38th overall on Saturday.
Doug Kalitta, still in search of his 50th career win, did just that with a strong 3.757 in Top Fuel that leads the field halfway through qualifying. Kalitta was also the top qualifier earlier this season in Phoenix with his Mac Tools dragster and has led the field 52 times in his career, which now spans 580 races.
“We made a good run in the first session, and I was excited to see what we could have done in the second,” said Kalitta. “It’s a shame we didn’t get to make the second run, but pretty sure that we’ll have two good lanes tomorrow to run on and we’ll go out and go for it. Even with the heat [expected] tomorrow, we plan to step it up. But, it’s also good to have that 3.75 to fall back on.”
“Of course, we’re hungry for a win but just to make it to a final is good to keep the points coming,” Kalitta said. “I love racing in Brainerd. Connie did well here and overall, all our teams have done well here. I hope we can keep that going.”
Top Fuel dragsters were limited to just one session after an oil down delayed the action for nearly an hour, pushing the session into the early evening. Brainerd Int’l Raceway does not have lights, forcing the day’s action to end with the completion of the funny Car class.
Even though there was just one run, the Top Fuel class put together a competitive effort with the top eight drivers all in the 3.7s including Steve Torrence (3.758), Brittany Force (3.762), Leah Pruett (3.777), Antron Brown (3.780), championship leader Justin Ashley (3.780), Mike Salinas (3.784), and Austin Prock (3.795).
Greg Anderson, a Minnesota native, who considers Brainerd Int’l Raceway to be hallowed ground, put his HendrickCars.com Camaro into the top spot following a 6.597, 205.79 run on Friday afternoon. Anderson was also the leader after Q1 with a competitive 6.600 effort.
Typical of modern-day Pro Stock racing, Anderson is barely in the lead as Matt Hartford is just a thousandth of a second behind with a 6.578 while five-time champ and recent Topeka winner Erica Enders is third after a 6.603 run.
If it holds, Anderson will earn his 122nd low qualifier award in 527 career Pro Stock races.
“Being back home is cool. This is where I grew up, where it all started for me,” said Anderson. “It’s also been four long years [since Pro Stock ran in Brainerd] The facility is still wonderful, and the track surface is great. We got all the points they had to give and made two nearly flawless runs.
“This is right before Indy and right before the Countdown so it’s crunch time,” Anderson said. “We had some time off after Denver and I think we made the most of it. I’m proud of the guys on this team. The whole KB Titan team is just awesome right now.
I wouldn’t say I’ve been taking one for the team, but I’ve been willing to try new things for the benefit of the team. Now, it’s time for me to see if I can make some hay. It’s time to focus on my car and stop experimenting. We can forget about the first ten races of the year.”
The top half of the Pro Stock field is qualified within .026-second and features Anderson, Hartford, Enders, Cristian Cuadra, Deric Kramer, Dallas Glenn, Aaron Stanfield and Kyle Koretsky. The bump is a competitive 6.702 by first-year racer David Cuadra.
The big news in Pro Stock involved a pair of world champions as Bo Butner has enlisted Minnesota native Jason Line to help tune his Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage Camaro. Butner did not get down the track on his first attempt but made amends later in the day with a 6.632.
Competition at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway continues with qualifying Saturday at 1:30 and 4:15 p.m. Eliminations are slated to begin Sunday at 11 a.m. Television coverage of the event continues with a second qualifying show Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1 (FS1). Eliminations will air Sunday at 4 p.m. ET on FOX Broadcasting Network.
See the latest from the NHRA:
Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals Friday photo gallery:
Content: ABM Communications | NHRA | Kevin McKenna (NHRA National Dragster)
Photo's: NHRA | ABM Communications (Auto Imagery)