ENNIS, Texas (Sept. 20, 2004) - Two years ago in the opening round of Funny Car eliminations at the Dallas race, veteran Funny Car pilot Ron Capps was involved in one of the most spectacular vehicle explosions in recent memory when the engine of...
ENNIS, Texas (Sept. 20, 2004) - Two years ago in the opening round of Funny Car eliminations at the Dallas race, veteran Funny Car pilot Ron Capps was involved in one of the most spectacular vehicle explosions in recent memory when the engine of his Skoal RacingSM Chevy Funny Car let loose near half track. While unable to see because the roof caved in, the car coasted to a halt along the guard wall at the Texas Motorplex and Capps walked away and was back behind the wheel of his signature green Chevy flopper two weeks later in Las Vegas. While the incident may have frightened some, the 14-time NHRA winner feels indestructible strapped in to his 6,000 horsepower race car powering to speeds in excess of 300 mph in less than five seconds.
"The explosion in Dallas was unique because I was racing my teammate Tommy Johnson," Capps said. "We both were doing what we could to gain lane choice for the next round. I remember being out in front and then the explosion happened. It stunned me. I remember coasting and not being able to see because things were blocking my vision. My hand was on the steering wheel, but I didn't know where the car was going.
"I couldn't wait for the Safety Safari crew to get there. It's very calming to know that we have our Safety Safari there each and every time we make a pass down the race track. It's a good feeling because we know how good those guys are. When something happens to you, as a driver, there's panic that sets in and it's very comforting to know that they're there. I remember those guys hovering over me asking me if I was OK and helping me out of the car."
Capps returns to the site of the breathtaking episode Sept. 23-26 for the 19th running of the O'Reilly Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex, just South of Dallas, looking to earn his first victory of the 2004 NHRA season. Capps won at Billy Meyer's famed all-concrete quarter mile in 1998.
"(John) Force was instrumental in coming up with some safety ideas for the Funny Cars," Capps said. "The shield over the driver to keep fire off of your hands is one of them. After our explosion at Dallas, we had a shield built by our chassis builder Murf McKinney. It added to what Force originally did. It was a strong piece to also protect you from debris in case of an explosion. I tell people all the time that you know you'll have fires, but the safety gear that (Bill) Simpson and Impact supply us with makes me feel almost invincible. When you're in the car with that gear on, you feel protected from anything."
Armed with seven layers of fireproof gear, gloves, boots, helmet and a Hans (Head and Neck Restraint) device, Capps and his fellow Funny Car competitors know they're as safe as can be strapped behind the wheel of their nitromethane powered Funny Car, which is comforting to everybody involved in racing.