Sunday Funnies: Dodge and Capps crowned champs, Toyota unveils a new fiberglass flopper
This past Sunday, the National Hot Rod Association put a bow on its 2021 season in Pomona, California by crowning champions across its four premiere drag racing classes: Matt Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle, Greg Anderson in Pro Stock, Steve Torrence in Top Fuel, and Ron Capps in Funny Car.
The flopper finale was the closest affair among the divisions, with Ron Capps edging fellow Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat driver and Schumacher teammate Matt Hagan by 37 points. Hagan had a shot at the crown, knocking off Capps in an earlier round in the day, but a surprise upset by Alexis DeJoria over Hagan in the semifinals, dashed any hopes of a repeat championship for the man they call “Sarge.” This is the second title for Capps, the 27-year-career veteran of the sport, having claimed his other championship in 2016.
Capps’ conquest also marks the seventh season championship for Don Schumacher Racing in its 19-year partnership with Dodge. “The Dodge Charger SRT body has been crazy fun to drive this year. We came out with a new chassis and new body and this year this body has made me a whole new driver,” Capps told media. “It’s been fun to have more vision and to be able to see better and when you are going 330 mph that’s what you need.”
Dodge’s funny car success in 2021 may have been the push for Toyota’s latest drag racing development. Before Sunday’s season finale, Toyota unveiled its new Gazoo Racing (GR) Supra funny car. While the car has been in development for the past two years, this couldn’t have come at a better time for top fuel ’Yota fans and teams, who saw their beloved Camry shut out of the top five in NHRA’s year-end standings—a list comprised of three Chargers, one Mustang, and one Camaro.
The newly designed fiberglass shell replaces the outgoing Camry body utilized by Toyota teams for the past decade. (Prior to that, the Celica and Solara were also campaigned in the marque’s 20-year history with the NHRA.) Modern flopper bodies typically have a faint resemblance to the model after which they are sculpted, and without manufacturer stickers, it would be difficult to tell them apart from the stands. While the new Supra is no different, it is a step in a more authentic direction (compared to the Camry) as it does possess several design cues from the road-going 2022 Supra: pointed nose, fender lines, and a bulbous greenhouse. “Our team at TRD, along with the design team at Calty (Toyota’s design studio), worked hard to incorporate as many features from the production GR Supra into the Funny Car that J.R. Todd and Alexis DeJoria will drive in 2022,” said Paul Doleshal, head of Toyota Motorsports North America.
Toyota worked with their two, star funny flyers to develop a safer car with increased visibility. (Interesting, considering Capps attributed his success in Dodge’s new-for-2021 Charger to the body’s increased visibility.) The large Supra cabin will afford drivers more room around their helmet and additional safety foam around the cockpit.
Come next year, Toyota will look to add to their 43 Funny Car victories and three Funny Car championships, but first they’ll have to beat Capps, Dodge, and the rest of the big three.