Gainesville: Ron Capps preview

Capps In Mix; Looking For First Win In Gainesville GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 15, 2005) - After two events of the 2005 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, Ron Capps is solidly in the mix for his first Funny Car championship as his Brut Dodge Stratus...

Capps In Mix; Looking For First Win In Gainesville

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 15, 2005) - After two events of the 2005 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, Ron Capps is solidly in the mix for his first Funny Car championship as his Brut Dodge Stratus Funny Car team heads to Gainesville Raceway this weekend for the 36th Annual NHRA Gatornationals.

Following a trip to the final round in the season's second event in Phoenix, Ariz., Capps, of Carlsbad, Calif., is fourth in the Funny Car point standings, just 39 points out of first place. He also joins an elite group with his Funny Car teammates Gary Scelzi and Whit Bazemore this weekend, as none of them has ever won this historic event.

The Northern Florida dragstrip opened in 1969, but Capps made only his first professional drag-racing appearance in 1995, in NHRA's Top Fuel category. Since then, Capps has won 14 national events, but his best result in Gainesville was a Funny Car runner-up finish in 2000.

"You always look back to the past when you go to a track, just to see how you've done," said Capps. "I'm a pretty firm believer in karma and a lot of times you just do well at certain places no matter what. Gainesville is not one of those places for me.

"It's such a big and historic race that every year you look at this event on the schedule as a race you definitely want to win. It's also the first track where the 300-mph was broken, it's at sea level, and the Funny Car record is still only 324.32 mph, which my teammate Bazemore set in 2003. We thought last year the 330-mph mark would be hit here. That didn't happen until Route 66 Raceway in Chicago later that year.

"They re-surfaced the track last year and it wasn't very good, but I think it's finally matured enough that I think you're going to see the numbers they were looking for when they first re-paved the track."

Capps' confidence was given a big boost after his close final-round loss against the 13-time Funny Car champion John Force in Phoenix, which followed a mechanical failure in the first round of the season-opener in Pomona. "It's exciting for me and the Brut team, especially for Ace (crew chief Ed McCulloch) and me. We sat down after Pomona and we talked about bouncing back and showing what this team can really do. And we were able to prove that in Phoenix, even though we came up a little bit short.

"Ace and (co-crew chief) Dan Olson gave me a lot of confidence in Phoenix. It wasn't something we talked about, and it's not something that Ace will say out loud, but I know that he and Olson did a lot of things to help me get back my confidence as a driver. It was huge for me in Phoenix to go some rounds. It's been a long time since I had." Brainerd, Minn., last August was the last time Capps went past the second round and into the semis.

"We talked about getting back up in the points and just being in the mix and we are now," he added. "You have the first two races at Pomona and Phoenix, and then the dust settles, and you begin to see how everybody does. One race is not going to predict the season, and neither are two races. After that, a few people will be sifted out, and you just don't want to be one of those guys sifted out; you want to stay at the top.

"The team is so new. We're still behind a little bit and we were behind for sure at Pomona and Phoenix, so we should be in better shape for Gainesville. This team came together at the very last minute, at the end of 2004, so we're still building up our parts inventory, just getting everything organized. The guys are now able to go to our new shop in Indiana and build some engines and get our arsenal built up to where it needs to be."

All the Don Schumacher Racing teams, with the exception of the Pro Stock teams, recently moved into a brand-new 100,000 sq. ft. facility in Brownsburg, Ind.

"I am extremely proud of everybody on this new team and how we did the first two races," Capps continued. "Doing well in Gainesville is so important right now."

RON CAPPS QUICK FACTS:

* At the 2004 Gatornationals, Capps qualified 12th, lost first round to John Force

* A perennial fan favorite, Capps has driven and won in both Top Fuel and Funny Cars since he began his pro NHRA career in 1995.

* His best season points finishes were seconds in Funny Car in 1998 and 2000

* He has 14 event wins in 31 final rounds to his credit

* In 2003 he finished in the top 10 in the Funny Car class for the seventh consecutive season.

* His career best elapsed time is 4.753 seconds, set in 2003 at Chicago 2

* His career best speed (established during an event) is 324.75 mph

* Lives in Carlsbad, with wife Shelley and daughter Taylor (8) and son Caden (3)

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Series NHRA
Drivers Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Don Schumacher