By Briar Starr, Staff Writer
On a special weekend for the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, the NHRA held their first All-Star Pep Boys Call Out race with Top Fuel and Funny Cars. Top Fuel was held Saturday with the winner being Steve Torrence, however, on Sunday, the Funny Car Call Out was held with eight drivers in the mix. These eight drivers were 2021 Funny Car Champion Ron Capps, Tim Wilkerson, two-time champion Cruz Pedregon, 16x champion John Force, Tony Stewart’s Nitro team with Matt Hagan, Alexis DeJoria, Robert Hight, and Bob Tasca.
The special ceremonies took place Saturday afternoon. The drivers were able to make their selection for the first round. Capps chose Wilkerson in what would be a rematch of the final round from Indy last year. Pedregon chose Force in a matchup we have seen many times throughout the years. Robert Hight decided to pick the most recent winner on the Funny Car tour Bob Tasca III, while Matt Hagan picked Alexis DeJoria who stopped him from winning the championship last year in Pomona.
In his first-round matchup, Capps eliminated Wilkerson in a great side-by-side race. Capps, who had struggled in qualifying all weekend up to this point, put up a time of 3.864 and 333.58 mph which set the low ET of the round. While Capps won the round, he also put himself on the No. 1 provisional qualifier.
“The choice was simple. I wanted revenge, and Guido (Dean Antonelli) and (John) Medlen, and our entire NAPA AutoCare team wanted revenge,” said Capps, referring to last year’s U.S. Nationals final round showdown when Wilkerson laid down a monster run to defeat Capps, denying the defending Camping World series champion of his first Big Go win.
“Timmy is one of my favorite people out here. He’s one of those ‘throwback racers.’ Tunes his car, and owns his own team, he’s a NAPA AutoCare Center owner, so we share that connection, and he was a big help to me over the off-season. That being said, I believe his final-round pass was the ‘run of the year last year. That throw-down run in the final round, snatching that U.S. Nationals win away from our team, it hurt; it still stings, so yeah, we were gunning for him.”
And the news only got better from here. Capps was able to pick his next opponent in the semis after setting the low ET. His opponent of choice? None other than familiar foe John Force. Force was able to get to the next round after eliminating Pedregon.
Meanwhile, Matt Hagan and Robert Hight moved on after Hagan eliminated DeJoria and Hight defeated Tasca. Both DeJoria and Tasca went up in smoke in their respective matchups. Hagan would wind up facing Hight.
As for Capps, he never trailed Force in the semis. Force shut off at half-track and Capps would win with another blistering speed of 3.896 and 332.59 mph to move to the finals. The California native ended up facing Tony Stewart’s Matt Hagan in the finals after Hagan won over Hight. Hight smoked the tires in the left lane and Hagan ran away with the victory to face Capps in the final round.
The finals once again saw a great race between the two competitors. Both Hagan and Capps stayed side-by-side with each other all the way to the start-finish line. At the finish line, the margin of victory was settled by approximately two feet which went to Capps on a holeshot victory. Capps cut a reaction time of .026 to Hagan’s .066, which was good enough for Capps to obtain $80,000 in prize money. Additionally, Capps kept his No. 1 qualifier spot for Monday’s eliminations.“
This briefcase, man. Pep Boys, thank you for doing this,” Capps added. “Guido, Medlen, my guys, this money goes to them. That second round, that 3.86, that really stands out. I knew it was on a pretty good run, the clutch came in and it planted me in the trunk of that Supra. I knew it was going to be decent, but I had no idea we were going to run a .86 in those conditions. That was big, this win is huge for our Ron Capps Motorsports organization, and all of our partners who make it so that we can do this.
“To earn the pole, that’s great going into tomorrow to know that we have it and know we have lane choice, but it’s just another day. I’ve been hearing for years from the media ‘when are you going to win the U.S. Nationals?’ and it’s getting monotonous. I’ve got such a great race car right now, but I’ve learned not to get ahead of myself, especially here, and last year was a perfect example of that. We’ll celebrate these wins tonight and get ready for tomorrow.”
For his efforts, Capps will earn 11 bonus points.
Eliminations begin Monday morning at 10 a.m./Eastern time live on NHRA TV. Additionally, FOX will carry live coverage of the U.S. Nationals beginning at 2 p.m./Eastern.