CAPPS AND MCCULLOCH AIM FOR THEIR FIRST U.S. NATIONALS WIN TOGETHER
INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 1, 2009) - While Ed "Ace" McCulloch has won the U.S. Nationals six times as a driver in Funny Car and Top Fuel, Ron Capps, the pilot of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Funny Car he now tunes for Don Schumacher Racing, has yet to see the winner's circle at this prestigious event, the 55th running of which will take place this weekend.
Since turning pro in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series in 1995, Capps has collected 30 victories in 61 final rounds, while McCulloch since 1971 has earned 27 trophies as a crew chief and 22 as a driver. Despite their distinguished success in this dynamic sport, neither has been crowned a world champion.
As the pair enters this weekend's U.S. Nationals, each has a common goal of not only winning this event but of earning together the coveted Funny Car world championship which has eluded them both. The Countdown to 1 playoffs for the top 10 in points begin following this weekend's event for the final six races.
Capps, second in the standings, has an opportunity to regain the lead he had held throughout most of the season and garner the 20 bonus points awarded to the points leader entering the playoffs.
"Coming into this weekend our focus is actually off the Countdown," said Capps, who is 73 markers behind leader Tony Pedregon. "There's a chance we can take the points lead back, but probably not a chance that we can lose second place." Ashley Force Hood, in third, trails Capps by 91 points.
"We know where we're going to stand going into the Countdown, so we can go into this week's events and enjoy all the hype that precedes the U.S. Nationals and not worry about the Countdown and, in a way, be more relaxed.
"The other thing that will help is not having a bonus event to compete in this year," added Capps, who triumphed in three bonus events in his career at the U.S. Nationals, in 1988, '99 and '02. "That will change the approach for a lot of teams of how they use the five qualifying sessions. We will use the two runs on Sunday to prepare for the conditions during Monday's eliminations. Because of that, this weekend is going to be quite different for me than it has been in years past.
"It's nice to have Ed McCulloch as a mentor and crew chief. When you have a guy on your side who has won this race six times, you can't put a price on the amount of knowledge he has or the amount of experience he's had approaching this race and knowing how to get through what can be a long and grueling weekend.
"I've said it before: No matter where we end up qualifying, I always feel like we have a race car that can win on race-day morning, thanks to Ace.
"The longer my career goes the more I want to win the U.S. Nationals. You don't want to end your career without winning the U.S. Nationals. My mantle has a spot right in the middle waiting for that trophy."
Said Ed McCulloch: "The U.S Nationals at Indy is the biggest, oldest, most prestigious race. There's a lot of the newer generation who don't really know or understand the sentiments or what the race really, really is. They look it as just another race. But it's history makes it a very, very important race to anybody who has been around for a while.
"I've been really successful at Indy, just not recently," added McCulloch, who's not won the U.S. Nationals as a crew chief. "And I would like to change that. Neither Ron nor I has ever won a championship, period. I can say one thing, if you have won a championship and you haven't won Indy, you haven't done it all.
"On the other hand, we still strive to win the championship. That's first and foremost. But, if we could come out of Indy with the victory going into the Countdown, it would be a huge boost to our momentum. And it would be huge to be able to win Indy with Ron and as a crew chief.
"I've won it in a Funny Car, I've won it in a dragster. I would love to win it as Ron's crew chief in a Funny Car."