Gainesville: Ron Capps final report

CAPPS LOSES DRAMATIC FIRST ROUND IN GAINESVILLE GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 16, 2008) - A spectacular blow-up directly in front of him by his first-round opponent at the NHRA Gatornationals barely ruffled a feather on the calm-and-cool Ron Capps....

CAPPS LOSES DRAMATIC FIRST ROUND IN GAINESVILLE

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 16, 2008) - A spectacular blow-up directly in front of him by his first-round opponent at the NHRA Gatornationals barely ruffled a feather on the calm-and-cool Ron Capps. In fact, if he hadn't lost traction on the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T in that face-off, he said, the results might have been very different.

The pair launched with nearly identical reaction times, (.056 for Capps, .055 for Cruz Pedregon). Capps smoked the tires early, as Pedregon headed to the finish line. As he hit the stripe, an explosion ripped off the body of his car, and Pedregon drifted over the centerline in front of a slowing Capps. He crossed the centerline after the finish stripe, so his 4.866-second win at 310.91 mph counted, while Capps followed with a losing 5.822/171.18 lap. Margin of victory: .9575 of a second.

Pedregon made quick repairs, making it into the second round, where he lost to Jim Head.

"I really didn't see him," said Capps, who actually moved up one spot in the point standings into 14th. "When I pulled the tires loose he went by me. And at that point he went right through the lights as he pulled the 'chute and it erupted into a huge fireball. I was coasting through there pretty good, and there was such an amount of dense fog that I felt like I was Cole Trickle in 'Days of Thunder' and I actually got on the radio and I said, Oh, boy, here we go. And for all I knew he was parked sideways on the other side of that smoke. And all I could do was let go of the brake and just grit my teeth and let it go through the smoke hoping he wasn't going to be sitting there and I would T-bone him.

"Ronnie (Thompson, assistant crew chief) was watching the big screen and he was going to get on the radio and tell me that I was OK to go through the smoke. He could see the whole thing unfolding. Once I went through the smoke I could see Cruz was way down there.

"We hated to lose the round, but had we been next to Cruz and run close to what he ran, he would have been in my lane at the exact same time I would have been with the 'chutes out down there, and it could have been real bad, real bad. He did end up in my lane and did a heck of a job getting the car stopped. But that could have been disastrous, and so, if you look at the big picture, it's not such a bad day after all."

As for struggling this weekend, "We've really concentrated on trying to adapt the car to the new minimum weight (100 pounds was added this year), but there's so many variables now. This season has started off very wacky. Look at the names that didn't qualify in both Top Fuel and Funny Car, so getting into the show was a big deal. And we're drawing guys first round who are running really well right now. Cruz's team is running great (Capps also lost first round to Pedregon at the last event in Phoenix), and we had Robert Hight first round in Pomona.

"One thing about it is that the NAPA team has created a reputation the last few years and guys have to be on their A game to beat us, and that's part of the deal. That's why John Force is legendary to run against, whether it's qualifying or, like I've joked before, whether we're racing to the rental car counter. He has a target on his back, and I think we do too. And it's a compliment to our team that guys go up there with their A game and try to beat us.

"We just have to keep at it. The NAPA guys just have to keep their heads up.

"Ace (crew chief Ed McCulloch) is very upset with himself, but we have the Countdown coming up in Indy (the U.S. Nationals on Labor Day weekend) and we'll be fine. This NAPA team is such a great team. One thing I never worry about when I'm driving for Ed McCulloch is even though we're trying some things to get better he doesn't veer too far off from his tune-up. He's got a great baseline and I know that we won't be too far off-track for very long.

"We're going to test here tomorrow. We've fought adversity for the last three years. Every single round we've won we had to fight some kind of adversity and we'll keep at it. I have all the confidence in the world we're going to break out and start winning rounds and things will be fine.

"It went out there and made it through the tricky spot and got a little bit further than that and it just pulled the tires loose. We're not sure why. But, you know what, that's why I love Ace as a crew chief. He is going to find out why it did what it did. We're going to run the wheels off this car. I'm driving my car and my teammate Gary Scelzi's Dodge tomorrow in testing so I'll be making laps and it'll help get my confidence back as a driver.

"I never have any worries when it comes to Sunday morning with this NAPA race team. I have all the belief in the world that we have a shot at winning."

-credit: dsr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Cruz Pedregon , Robert Hight