Chicago: Ron Capps Ready for Route 66

JOLIET, Ill., May 30, 2000 - The timing has to be right sooner or later. And there's no question which time frame Ron Capps and Ed "Ace" McCulloch prefer. Perhaps the season's first win will come during the Prestone Route 66 Nationals...

JOLIET, Ill., May 30, 2000 - The timing has to be right sooner or later. And there's no question which time frame Ron Capps and Ed "Ace" McCulloch prefer.

Perhaps the season's first win will come during the Prestone Route 66 Nationals at Route 66 Raceway, Friday through Sunday. If Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's U.S. Tobacco Co. Funny Car displays the same kind of performance it did Sunday, that could happen.

Then again, some niggling mechanical problem could surface and interfere with Capps claiming his eighth NHRA Funny Car victory, like it did Sunday during the Castrol Nationals at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas.

With crew chief McCulloch doing the tuning, Capps fired the quickest shot of the 2000 Winston Series season, a 4.811-second first-round run that stunned not only Jim Epler (who was in the other lane) but the rest of the field as well.

"We were wondering where McCulloch came up with that one," said eventual race winner John Force.

McCulloch knew, of course, but he wasn't about to share his secret, even after Capps stopped Epler's WWF teammate, Jerry Toliver, with a 4.894-second run in the next round.

Capps was on course for another 4.80-second time in the semifinals against Force - definitely his nemesis this year - when the inside teeth of the blower belt sheared off a little more than 300 feet from the finish line.

"Our incremental numbers (on the run) were better than Force's at 60, 330, 660 and 1000 feet," McCulloch commented, "then the belt went away," and Force went by, winning by less than three-hundredths of a second (4.915 at 316.67 mph to 4.942 at 297.71).

McCulloch admitted to making changes to his tune-up on race day. It was obvious because Capps qualified 12th at 4.997 seconds - on his last attempt. "When I saw what the weather was Sunday, I made adjustments for that and did what I had to do," he said. "The weather front that came through Saturday night changed all the conditions. I expected the car to run a mid-4.80. When the 4.81 came up it surprised me."

"We fought adversity through qualifying big-time," said Capps. "We kicked the rods out of one motor and Ace knew there was a gremlin in the tune-up somewhere. What makes the performance so gratifying is that we fought through the problem and were able to get the results that we did."

Conditions at Route 66 Raceway will be different, primarily because the Motorplex is an all-concrete track while Route 66 features concrete and asphalt.

    "We haven't done real well there in our only two races," added Capps,
who hasn't made it past the quarterfinals at Joliet.  But the U.S. Tobacco
Co.  Camaro is running better than it has several months.

"It gives me a lot of confidence to go to the starting line with a car I know is going to run that good," said Capps. "It's part of what makes this sport so exciting, to work your tail off like our crew did and then see the results is a gratifying feeling."

Capps pointed out he didn't see Force's car in the semifinals until after the blower belt gave way. "I didn't even hear his car next to me," he commented. "When the belt sheared off I saw Force's car out my window right at the finish line. I thought we still had him, but that's the way it happens."

Capps' wins over Epler and Toliver, who lost the series point lead to Force, marked the second time this year that he's knocked out both WWF team cars.

Capps remained third in points with 600. He trails Toliver, who dropped to second with 644. Force, who Sunday tied Bob Glidden's NHRA record for career wins with 85, is first with 677.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Epler , Ron Capps , John Force , Bob Glidden , Jerry Toliver