Ron Capps tops NHRA opening day at Gatornationals

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Ron Capps topped the first round of Funny Car qualifying Friday in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series’ season-opening Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway, while 71-year-old John Force struggled in his return.

Capps had a pass of 3.895 seconds at 329.02 mph in a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.

“It just feels great,” Capps said. “It’s almost like we can dial in a bracket car here so far. I’m honestly tickled. We already knew this was a great car. There’s not a lot I can do other than be myself and drive the car the best I can. Unloading with a provisional No. 1 qualifier is great. What a perfect time to go up and show up.”

Force smoked the tires on his Chevrolet Camaro in a 4.456 at 207.94. The 16-time champion and patriarch of drag racing’s first family opted not to race when the NHRA returned in July following a five-month break. It was a business decision made to salvage a company he built over five decades.

“Well, we were going after it, my guys … We wanted to come out and put on a show,” Force said. “I’ll tell you what, it is good to be back out here. … This crowd, the fans are great, NHRA and Camping World. I’m glad to be back racing, back where I belong!”

Steve Torrence led in Top Fuel, Erica Enders in Pro Stock and Angelle Sampey in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Torrence, the three-time defending series champion, ran 3.699 at 324.90. Back-to-back champion Enders drove to the top spot in a Camaro with a 6.528 at 210.77. Sampey had a 6.746 at 196.67 on a Suzuki.

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