Ralph Capitani, director and promoter extraordinaire of Knoxville Raceway, has passed away. Capitani, known as “Cappy” by his friends, worked hard to grow both the sport of sprint car racing and the legendary Knoxville Nationals. Without his effort and vision, it’s unlikely sprint car racing would have become the popular, exciting sport it is today.
Born in 1932, Capitani taught and coached at Knoxville High School prior to beginning his work for Knoxville Raceway in the late ’70s. With Capitani as the track director, the Knoxville Nationals became a well-known and prestigious event, with television coverage and high attendance. Furthering the interests of sprint car racing, he also assisted in the foundation of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum in 1985 and the National 360 Sprint Car Council in 1993.
Capitani was voted the National Sprint Car Poll’s ‘Promoter of the Year’ thrice, in 1985, 1990 and 1991. He has been named one of the poll’s most powerful leaders in the sport ever since its inception.
“Ralph was a visionary promoter in the Sprint Car racing world,” said World of Outlaws CEO Brian Carter. “I enjoyed the opportunities I had to learn while working with him. We will miss him.”
Knoxville Raceway, in an official statement regarding Capitani’s death, said, “A visionary in the sport, Cappy aimed to make sprint car racing at Knoxville Raceway grander, the purses bigger and the grandstands fuller. He achieved them all with a smile on his face and a hearty handshake for every team owner, driver, crew member and fan that ever crossed his path. Cappy was a great mentor to everyone who had the privilege of working with him, whether here at the track or at Knoxville High School where he taught and coached. It may be a cliché, but in this case saying Cappy made Knoxville Raceway a better place could not be more accurate. Cappy will be greatly missed. Not only at Knoxville Raceway, but at race tracks around the world. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Marilyn, and their sons, Steve, Dave, John and their families.”