Capps, Brown, and Stanfield win Carolina Nationals

By Briar Starr, NHRA Staff Writer 

The Countdown to the Championship continued its march to the championship this weekend for the annual Carolina Nationals. Many teams were looking to stop the dominance of Robert Hight, Antron Brown, and Justin Ashley, as well as Pro Stock’s Erica Enders. Some of that dominance was stopped today as Ron Capps (Funny Car), Antron Brown (Top Fuel), and Aaron Stanfield (Pro Stock) took home the Wally’s from Charlotte. Kickin’ The Tires recaps this weekend’s action from the second race in the NHRA Camping World Series playoffs. 

  1. Ron Capps Scores Emotional Victory – It’s been an emotional weekend for the California native and new Funny Car Team Owner Ron Capps. Capps, the 2021 Funny Car champion, learned Friday night that one of his close friends passed away at the age of 21. With a heavy heart, Capps was determined to bring home a win this weekend but that had to start with a focus on qualifying. On qualifying, Capps qualified in the fourth spot posting a time of 3.866 and 334.90 mph that set up a first-round match against Blake Alexander.

    While Alexander was first off the starting line against Capps with a .081 to Capps .100, the Toyota Gazoo Racing driver came trailing back after Alexander smoked the tires and ended up peddling the car. Capps rocketed to a 3.889 and 326.79 mph to advance to the quarterfinals to face the three-time winner in 2022 Bob Tasca III.  Tasca III won against Cruz Pedregon in the first round. This was a clean drag race between the two veterans and Capps pulled away once more with a 3.885 and 335.07 mph victory after Tasca is up in smoke. In the semis, Capps faced a familiar foe once again which was his old rival, John Force. Force was the No. 1 qualifier for this event with a speed of 3.854 and 330.47 mph. With just 15 cars on the property, Force had a bye run in round one and was victorious over Chad Green in the second round. Entering the match with Capps, Force was 68-50, but this time Capps got another one on Force by 14 feet to face his Toyota Gazoo Racing teammate Alexis DeJoria in the finals. 

    DeJoria made it to the finals by defeating big names such as J.R. Todd and Funny Car points leader Robert Hight in the quarterfinals. The birthday girl also got a victory over Matt Hagan in the semis to face Capps in the finals. 

    The final was a close race between Capps and DeJoria. The NAPA driver grabbed a holeshot after leaving the start line and began pulling away from DeJoria. As he began going down the track, Capps would blow up right before the finish but still hung for the victory. 

    “I’m dedicating this win to Balin Hewson and his family,” he said, his voice tinged with emotion. “I first met Balin and his family when he was our NAPA Honorary Crew Member during the 2014 Indy race, and we became very close. He was diagnosed at a young age with a life-threatening disease and wasn’t expected to make it to his teenage years, and here he was, getting ready to celebrate his 21st birthday. He was just someone who lit up the room. He was an avid, avid follower of our team, and his family are NAPA AutoCare Center owners.

    “This has been a tough day all day today. He’d be doing donuts in his wheelchair right now, and would’ve been the first one to text me to say congratulations. When his father called on Friday night and shared the news of his passing, it was a shock. We really wanted to win for him today, and I think we had some help from him. I can’t wait to take this trophy to Phoenix and give it to his mom and dad.”

  2. Antron Brown Victorious Again – Sunday was a fairly great day for three-time winner Antron Brown. Brown seems to be heating up at the right time with just five races left to go when the teams entered the Carolina Nationals this past weekend. By scoring two victories at Topeka and Indianapolis, Brown was looking to bounce back after a semi-final loss to Austin Prock last weekend in Reading. 

    Brown qualified in the seventh position with a time of 3.705 and 326.08 mph which would see him in a rematch against Prock in the first round. Brown and Prock had close reaction times with Brown doing a .067 and Prock .055. Despite Prock being quicker off the line, Brown got him at the stripe with a 3.691 and 331.20 mph to a 3.778 and 328.14 mph. This was big for Brown as he would be set to face Brittany Force, who was second in points entering the second round. Force earned a victory over Spencer Massey in E1. As for E2, Brown had the starting line advantage again over Force and would win with a 3.733 and 287.23 mph over Force’s 5.252 and 161.48 mph. Force was up in smoke right off the start line and Brown also had trouble as the cylinders began mixing down the track. Still, Brown would win and move on to the semis. 

    Brown faced the newly owned Rick Ware Racing dragster of Clay Millican. Millican had a fast dragster early in the runs with victories over Doug Foley and Josh Hart. Again, Brown cut a light of .046 over Millican’s .074. The margin of victory was 20 feet. This victory prompted Brown to the final round that saw him face a fast Justin Ashley. 

    Knowing the final wouldn’t be easy, Brown knew he had to be perfect getting off the line. Just like the Funny Car finals, the Top Fuel final again was another close race. Both Brown and Ashley went over 330 mph in their final round, so much so, Brown had a holeshot victory over his technical teammate Ashley with a 3.672 and 335.73 mph over Ashley’s 3.671 and 331.99 mph. 

    “If we want to compete for this championship, we have to step up,” Brown said. “When I look at Justin, he’s the toughest competitor out there, period, hands down. He spits out .040s and .030s and .025s on the tree. It ain’t guessing. The kid is laser sharp and his focus is unreal.”

    “It takes everybody,” Brown added. “We’ve got nothing but strong links. When one of us falters, everybody picks each other up. That’s when you have something special, and that’s what AB Motorsports has right now. It starts at the top and trickles down.”

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    Antron Brown wins Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals, Photo Courtesy of Auto Imagery


  3. Aaron Stanfield Snaps Seven Race Winless Streak – For the first time since Bristol this year, Elite Motorsports Aaron Stanfield was back in victory lane at Concord, North Carolina. The victory wasn’t easy though as it never usually is in the Pro Stock class with so many tough contenders, especially with Erica Enders who has dominated the class this year with seven victories. 

    Speaking of Enders dominance, she added to it this weekend by scoring the No. 1 qualifier with a time of 6.510 and 208.94 mph. As for Stanfield, he qualified in the sixth position posting an ET of 6.538 and 211.13 mph. The two drivers have faced each other many times in the finals this past season with Enders normally getting the best of Stanfield. But for Stanfield, he was looking to turn that around. Stanfield defeated Deric Kramer, Indianapolis winner Greg Anderson, and his teammate Troy Coughlin Jr to advance to the finals. Meanwhile, it looked as though we could’ve seen Enders in the finals but she lost in E3 to Matt Hartford. Hartford won over Bo Butner, Dallas Glenn, and Enders to get to the finals. The finals would mark Hartford’s first since Denver earlier this summer and it was the same finals where he also faced Stanfield and won. 

    In the finals, Stanfield left first but not by much. The two stayed side-by-side down the track and this time, Stanfield was victorious over Hartford by nine feet with a 6.567 and 210.21 mph over Hartford’s 6.569 and 209.82 mph. The victory was Stanfield’s third of the season. 

    “I’m super pumped up,” said Stanfield just moments after accepting his Wally. “These Elite Motorsports guys, Janac Brothers, JC3 Energy – I couldn’t do it without them. Matt’s had my number the past few times we’ve raced. They’ve done a great job this weekend and hats off to them. Our team’s had a little adversity lately and we came through it right there. We’ve been working really hard and I’ve been struggling as a driver, but we pulled it together today. I just want to keep winning. I want to keep driving and I’m just thankful for this opportunity.”

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    Aaron Stanfield powered to his third Pro Stock win of the season in his Janac Brothers/JC3 Energy Camaro at zMAX Dragway. Photo credit: Auto Imagery


  4. Tony Schumacher Back For Two More Years – Tony Schumacher, who returned full-time this past year driving in the Top Fuel dragster will be back for two more seasons through 2025 with the help of his current sponsor SCAG Power Equipment. Announced on Saturday afternoon, SCAG Power Equipment will return on board as the primary sponsor for the 86-time winner. 

    “Truly unbelievable how this program has grown,” said Schumacher, an eight-time Top Fuel world champion, who is currently in contention for the 2022 Camping World Series title. “Everyone has been so supportive and excited, and it feels like an actual family. After the Army left, I wondered who could ever fill those shoes and I made it clear that I didn’t want just ‘any old sponsor.’

    “We wanted a company that was truly behind us and excited about the partnership. That is what we have found with SCAG. Not only do they make phenomenal products, but the people behind the machines are amazing. From the production plants in Wisconsin to the owners and employees of the dealerships, to the end users who I have the pleasure of meeting weekly. I feel extremely blessed to have this opportunity for the next several years.”

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    Tony Schumacher at Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals, Photo Courtesy of Auto Imagery 

Other news and notes – John Force scored his 165th No. 1 qualifier of his career Saturday afternoon. Travis Pastrana will test a Top Fuel dragster Monday at zMax Drag Way as Top Fuel driver Alex Laughlin will help field a car for Pastrana. There was some minor drama in E1 for Josh Hart. Hart was scheduled to face Schumacher, but had problems with his dragster and needed more time to fix the issue. Schumacher’s team was gracious with the time, despite being told by NHRA officials to fire up his dragster. Schumacher continued to wait for Hart to fire up and he finally did so. Unfortunately for Hart, he lost in E2 to Clay Millican. 

Brittany Force lost in the second round to eventual race winner Antron Brown. Justin Ashley had a fast dragster all weekend long posting speeds of 330.80 mph in E1, 332.43 mph in E2, 333.91 mph in E3, and 335.99 mph in E4. Clay Millican also enjoyed successful runs in the RWR dragster by going to the semis before losing out to Brown. Meanwhile, the same can be said for Doug Kalitta who also saw solid runs as well with wins over Shawn Langdon and Mike Salinas before he lost to Justin Ashley. 

Official NHRA Camping World Results following the Carolina Nationals. 

Top Fuel 

  1. Antron Brown 
  2. Justin Ashley 
  3. Clay Millican 
  4. Doug Kalitta 
  5. Mike Salinas 
  6. Steve Torrence 
  7. Brittany Force 
  8. Josh Hart 
  9. Shawn Langdon 
  10. Tony Schumacher 
  11. Spencer Massey
  12. Austin Prock 
  13. Doug Foley 
  14. Leah Pruett
  15. Alex Laughlin 
  16. Billy Torrence

Funny Car 

  1. Ron Capps 
  2. Alexis DeJoria 
  3. Matt Hagan 
  4. John Force 
  5. Robert Hight 
  6. Bob Tasca III 
  7. Chad Green 
  8. Cruz Pedregon 
  9. J.R. Todd 
  10. John Smith 
  11. Blake Alexander 
  12. Jim Campbell 
  13. Tim Wilkerson 

Pro Stock 

  1. Aaron Stanfield 
  2. Matt Hartford 
  3. Troy Coughlin Jr 
  4. Erica Enders 
  5. Dallas Glenn 
  6. Greg Anderson 
  7. Kyle Koretsky 
  8. Cristian Cuadra 
  9. Bo Butner 
  10. Deric Kramer 
  11. Mason McGaha 
  12. Chris McGaha 
  13. Fernando Cuadra Sr 
  14. Larry Morgan 
  15. Fernando Cuadra Jr 
  16. Camrie Caruso 

Official NHRA Championship Points 

Top Fuel 

  1. Justin Ashley, 2,272 points 
  2. Antron Brown, -43 
  3. Brittany Force, -52 
  4. Mike Salinas, -54
  5. Steve Torrence, -105 

Funny Car 

  1. Robert Hight, 2,283 points 
  2. Ron Capps, -27 
  3. Matt Hagan, -60 
  4. John Force, -74
  5. Bob Tasca III, -104

Pro Stock 

  1. Erica Enders, 2,312 points 
  2. Aaron Stanfield, -64
  3. Troy Coughlin Jr, -97
  4. Greg Anderson, -109 
  5. Kyle Korestky, -122 

Note – Pro Stock Motorcycle did not compete this weekend. 

Up Next: The NHRA Camping World Series will continue their Countdown to the Championship run next weekend at St. Louis for the annual NHRA Midwest Nationals Sept 30 – Oct 2. 

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