INDIANAPOLIS - The calendar on the wall says Labor Day is fast approaching, and to NHRA drag racing fans, that means one thing - the U.S. Nationals. For Ron Capps, Don "The Snake" Prudhomme and the Copenhagen Racing Camaro Funny Car...
INDIANAPOLIS - The calendar on the wall says Labor Day is fast approaching, and to NHRA drag racing fans, that means one thing - the U.S. Nationals. For Ron Capps, Don "The Snake" Prudhomme and the Copenhagen Racing Camaro Funny Car team, it marks another opportunity to win what is recognized as the sport's oldest and most prestigious event. And perhaps earn another $100,000 payday in the special Big Bud Shootout. Capps will be seeking his first victory during the 45th annual U.S. Nationals, Sept. 3-6, although he will be going for his second straight Shootout win Sept. 5. In three previous Labor Day races at Indianapolis Raceway Park, Capps' best finish has been a semifinal appearance in 1997. Prudhomme, his boss and car owner, has seven U.S. Nationals titles to his credit as a driver and one as an owner. His last win at IRP as a driver was 10 years ago. It was memorable because Prudhomme's Skoal Bandit Racing Pontiac Funny Car dominated both the Shootout and the Labor Day race. He was only the second driver at the time to win both races on the same weekend. "That's one reason why this race is so special," said Capps. "There's a lot of history here. We're always excited to race at Indy." Capps would like to be part of that history and add the U.S. Nationals title to his resume. He comes to town encouraged by the car's performance at Brainerd, Minn. (Aug. 20-22), believing he will be able to challenge for wins on Sunday and Monday. "We had a bittersweet weekend at Brainerd," he said. "The car ran well but we hurt the motor every round and we burned our new Camaro body. We need to find out what the problem is and fix it. We showed the car's performance is coming back. "We'll have a special gold Cope Racing Camaro body at Indy. The guys spent the time (after the Brainerd race) getting our motors and parts ready for the race. We'll need to have a big arsenal for the Shootout and the U.S. Nationals." Capps qualified second at Brainerd with a 4.924-second run, his third quickest of the year. He beat Terry Haddock in a tire-smoking first-round match and eliminated Tony Pedregon in the quarterfinals. An engine explosion and fire, caused by a malfunctioning clutch timer, ended Capps' day in the semifinal round against Whit Bazemore. "I heard a huge concussion, then I saw the fire," Capps recalled. "It was pretty hot so I pulled the car out of the groove and stopped. I jumped out and was trying to lift up the body (off the chassis to prevent damage), but it was beyond that point." Crew chief Todd Okuhara and advisor Roland Leong found consistency during qualifying, with Capps posting 5.084 and 5.105-second numbers before his 4.924. "We're going to try to carry what momentum we do have into the Bud Shootout," Capps said. "It's more important this year because of the struggles we've had. If we could come back and win that race, it would be a huge morale boost for our team. "I won't say we're back to where we were last year, but we have half a foot in the door." Capps finished fourth in the Shootout point standings and faces Dean Skuza in the first round of the eight-man battle Sept. 5. The two met in the semifinals last year, Capps winning on the way to his $100,000 payday. Others qualifying for the special event include John Force, Whit Bazemore, Tony Pedregon, Tim Wilkerson, Cruz Pedregon and Del Worsham. Capps came to Indianapolis last year leading the Funny Car standings. He concluded the season with five wins and second place behind John Force. Now he's searching for that first U.S. Nationals decision. -30- Ron Capps Facts:
Age: 34 Hometown: La Costa, Calif.
Final-round record: 8/12 (7/10 Funny Car, 1/2 Top Fuel); Last win: Topeka, Kan., 10/17/98;
Quickest time: 4.864 seconds; Fastest speed: 315.45 mph
At Indianapolis Raceway Park: He was a semifinalist in 1997; lost in the quarterfinals in '98 and the first round in 1995, when he drove in Top Fuel.
1999 Winston Series Standing: 13th, 533 points