Englishtown: Capps ready

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., Sept. 6, 2000 - In the last two NHRA Funny Car events, one driver has prevented Ron Capps from reaching the final round. In the first round of the rain-delayed Matco Tools Spring SuperNationals Saturday, Capps has an ...

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., Sept. 6, 2000 - In the last two NHRA Funny Car events, one driver has prevented Ron Capps from reaching the final round. In the first round of the rain-delayed Matco Tools Spring SuperNationals Saturday,

Capps has an opportunity to gain some revenge. His opponent is Jim Epler, the driver who beat him in the semifinals at Brainerd, Minn. (Aug. 20) and Indianapolis (Monday).

"It seems like we've raced him a lot lately," says Capps, driver of the U.S. Tobacco Co. Camaro. "And Epler's won."

Capps' count is right. Add Epler's first-round win in Sunday's non-points Bud Shootout (which isn't added to the overall total) and Epler has won the last three.

Capps, however, won their first three meetings this season.

"All that gives me a lot more incentive to beat him," added Capps.

As well as he's been running recently - he qualified first at Brainerd with a track record 4.862 seconds and third (4.968 seconds) at Indy's U.S. Nationals - it seems odd that Capps goes into Saturday's competition as the 16th qualifier. Epler is No. 1.

Unseasonably cold (55 degrees) and wet weather May 19, 20 and 21 forced NHRA to reschedule this event. Some teams had little trouble getting down the track in their two qualifying runs prior to the postponement and some had a lot of trouble. Epler's best was 4.947 seconds while Capps' was 7.236.

"I remember I had to pedal (the throttle) what seemed like a lot of times on our last qualifying run just to get us in the show," Capps recalled. "The conditions should be a lot better this time."

And so should the performance of the Don "The Snake" Prudhomme-owned U.S. Tobacco Co. entry.

Capps had the quickest run Monday, 4.903 seconds, in a quarterfinal win over Bruce Sarver. Capps opened the day with a 4.997-second decision over Bob Gilbertson.

A fuel system slide valve quit working on the run against Epler and Capps' time slowed to a 5.058 seconds while Epler won with a 4.923, then went on to win the race.

"We really felt like we had a chance to win Monday," Capps added. Then he commended crew chief Ed "Ace" McCulloch. "Ace and the crew did a great job putting our new car together and getting it to run like it did. Ace said our first run (Monday) was real soft, so he was going to get after it. I wasn't surprised when it ran the 4.90. We were all very disappointed when the car slowed down against Epler."

The first-round showdown at Raceway Park is important to each driver. Capps is fourth with 1,105 points, just 38 in front of Epler. One of the two drivers will leave Englishtown in third place. Tony Pedregon, currently occupying that position, didn't qualify. He has 1,030 points.

The busy schedule continues next week with the Keystone Nationals, Sept. 14-17, at Reading, Pa. Ron Capps Statistics:

Age: 35 Hometown: Carlsbad, Calif.

Final-round record: 8-17 (7-15 Funny Car, 1-2 Top Fuel)

Last Final: Commerce, Ga., 5/7/00; Last win: Topeka, Kan., 10/17/98

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

Standing after 17 races: Fourth, 1,015 points

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Jim Epler , Tony Pedregon , Ron Capps