Dallas: Capps seeks second straight win

ENNIS, Texas, Oct. 12, 2000 - Ron Capps isn't a gambler but if he were, seven would be his lucky number - at least after his latest NHRA Funny Car victory. When Capps drove the U.S. Tobacco Co. Camaro to the decision over Whit Bazemore in the...

ENNIS, Texas, Oct. 12, 2000 - Ron Capps isn't a gambler but if he were, seven would be his lucky number - at least after his latest NHRA Funny Car victory.

When Capps drove the U.S. Tobacco Co. Camaro to the decision over Whit Bazemore in the AutoZone Nationals finals at Memphis, he completed a day in which he:

* Won for the first time in seven final rounds this year;

* Returned to the winner's circle for the first time in 721 days - nine days shy of two years - and 46 races.

* Beat John Force for the first time in more than two years;

* Climbed into second place in the standings with three Winston Series races remaining.

Now Capps, crew chief Ed "Ace" McCulloch and the team move on to the Texas Motorplex for the O'Reilly Fall Nationals, Oct. 20-22, hoping to continue their recent impressive performances.

Capps had placed second to Force at Topeka, Kan., the week before going to Memphis. His other runner-up outings came at Phoenix (to Force), Gainesville, Fla. (to Jerry Toliver) and to Force at Richmond, Va., and Atlanta.

Capps has a good record at the Motorplex, one that could've been much better were it not for Force. He beat Force in the Lone Star Nationals finals in 1998 and lost to Force four times in the semifinals. Capps posted the quickest Funny Car time of this 90-percent nitromethane fuel rule year, 4.811 seconds, here in May.

Capps and Force have met in six of the last seven races here with Force winning five.

But Capps comes to Texas with the latest victory.

"To beat Force in the semis at Memphis, I could've gone home right then," Capps recalled. "It's been so long. To go up there and beat him with performance just shows what Ace has done with this team."

Capps was the picture of consistency last weekend. In qualifying, he had times of 4.942, 4.940, 4.985 and 4.893 (which put him fourth overall).

On race day, Capps beat Tommy Johnson Jr. with a 5.006 and Bruce Sarver with a 4.974 before squaring off against Force. Capps left the starting line first and never trailed, winning with a 4.957 at 299.00 mph to Force's 4.966 at 298.34. In the finale, the U.S. Tobacco Co. Camaro registered its best time of the day, 4.925 seconds, while Bazemore's car slowed to an 11.125.

"We decided after the semifinals that we weren't going to let this one get away from us," said McCulloch.

A couple weeks ago the team set a goal of finishing second to Force - who will likely clinch his 10th championship at the Fall Nationals. "We set one that we thought was just out of reach," Capps commented. "We were down in points and struggling a little bit then. We said, 'You know what, if we really concentrate on what we're doing, we can catch Toliver.' That's a big accomplishment."

Capps has 1369 points to Toliver's 1353. "Now our goal is to stay ahead of him," he added.

Capps and the U.S. Tobacco Co. crew really didn't time to celebrate their win. As Capps was doing his finish-line interview, he watched Top Fuel driver Larry Dixon, his Don Prudhomme Racing teammate, crash spectacularly on his way to what would have been a double victory for the team. Dixon was leading when the car went airborne and was disqualified because his car crossed the centerline.

"I was doing the interview when I saw Larry's car perpendicular to the track with parts flying," Capps said. "That provided a reality check. No matter how good the win felt, when you see someone you're such good friends with in that situation, making sure he's OK is the most important thing."

Except for a fractured fibula near his left ankle and some bumps and bruises, Dixon is OK and will be competing at the Motorplex.

Ron Capps Statistics:
Age: 35 Hometown: Carlsbad, Calif.

Final-round record: 9-19 (8-16 Funny Car, 1-2 Top Fuel)

Last Final: Memphis, 10/8/00; Last win: Memphis, 10/8/00

Quickest time: 4.811 seconds, 5/28/00, Ennis, Texas; Fastest speed: 315.45 mph, 10/24/97, Baytown, Texas

Standing after 20 races: Second, 1369 points

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Larry Dixon , Ron Capps , John Force , Don Prudhomme , Jerry Toliver , Tommy Johnson Jr.