JOLIET, Ill. — Ron Capps led a parade of three-second Funny Car runs and claimed the No. 1 qualifying position Saturday at the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries.
Morgan Lucas (Top Fuel), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also will lead their categories into Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations as the No. 1 qualifiers at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.
Capps posted the first three-second Funny Car run in Route 66 Raceway’s history and it proved to be quick enough to hold on to the top spot. His track record performance of 3.988 seconds at 320.28 mph in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger earned him his first No. 1 qualifying position of the season, 15th of his career and first at this track.
“I really didn’t think it would hold since we ran so early in the session,” said Capps, who will face Bob Bode in the opening round as he looks to earn his second win of the season and second victory at the state-of-the-art track just south of Chicago. “It was a great run. I thought (Matt) Hagan or (Jack) Beckman would go quicker than that, but we’ll take it. I’ve been hit or miss at this place, so maybe we can get one tomorrow. It’s great for the fans to have two night sessions. Funny Cars racing at night; it doesn’t get a lot better than that.”
There were four three-second runs in the final qualifying session. In addition to Capps’ run, Bob Tasca III (3.988, second), defending world champ Beckman (3.983, third) and Del Worsham (3.999, fourth) all broke the four-second barrier.
John Force posted a career-best time of 4.010 at 316.67 in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang that was good enough for fifth best. Epping winner Courtney Force was not qualified going into the final session, but she powered her Traxxas Mustang to a performance of 4.042 at 315.78 to qualify in seventh place.
In Top Fuel, Lucas claimed his first No. 1 qualifying position of the season with a track record time of 3.737 at a speed of 322.19. It was Lucas’ ninth No. 1 of his career and he will face Terry McMillen in the opening round of eliminations as Lucas looks for his first victory at this event.
“This was really big for our team,” Lucas said. “I was thinking while I was sitting in the car before the run that I would be happy with anything in the 3.7s because of the way we had been running lately and also because our car doesn’t always respond well to night time tune-ups. Afterwards, we had to see if it would stick. And when Tony [Schumacher] made his run, I was sweating it out, especially when [announcer] Alan Reinhart paused before giving out the last digit. We’ve made a ton of changes to our car, and hopefully things are starting to turn around for us. I have to thank everyone on our team for all their hard work and great efforts.”