Skoal Racing Report
Test results, new tire make Capps, Johnson optimistic going into Dodge Dealers Nationals qt Route 66 Raceway
JOLIET, Ill., May 29, 2002 - Seven races in nine weeks - a grueling portion of the first half of the 2002 NHRA Powerade Series season - comes to a close Sunday at Route 66 Raceway, much to the delight of several teams, including Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's Skoal Racing Funny Car team.
This grind began in Las Vegas (April 5) and wound its way to Houston, Bristol, Tenn., Atlanta, Englishtown, N.J., and Topeka, Kan. It concludes with the Chicagoland Dodge Dealers Nationals in this city 40 miles from downtown Chicago. While this will be the 10th of 23 events, Ron Capps and Tommy Johnson Jr. hope it will bring an end to a string of disappointing performances.
Fueling their optimism is the availability of a new Goodyear tire that replaces one that has caused almost all Funny Car and Top Fuel crew chiefs much anguish with its unpredictable reactions to tune-ups.
Then there are the good results gleaned from Monday's test session at Topeka.
"We made progress. The car seemed to react much better," said Johnson, driver of the Blue Skoal Racing Camaro, after new crew chief Rob Flynn installed his tune-up. "We are much more enthusiastic now about going to Joliet. I don't know if we've solved our problems, but it was a very promising test session. The car responded to the changes Rob made from run to run. It looks like we may be onto something here."
After going to the finals at Las Vegas and Houston, the Blue car's performance faltered. Since then, Johnson has won one round of racing and failed to make the 16-car field twice. Surprisingly, he was sixth after Houston and he's still sixth four events later, although he's holding a narrow advantage over the four drivers behind him. Johnson has 423 point, followed by Tim Wilkerson (416), Johnny Gray (407), Scotty Cannon (402) and Capps (398).
"We were lucky that we didn't fall farther down in points with the two DNQs," added Johnson. "Now it's time to turn things around and see what we can do."
Capps' Green Skoal Racing entry was in fourth place leaving Las Vegas, 56 points behind leader John Force. With only one round win and one DNQ in the last five races, he now clings to 10th spot.
"Using the new tire should help us," said Capps, who ran one of his quickest elapsed times, 4.808 seconds, at this event a year ago. "I think you are going to see a lot of teams that have been struggling a bit pick up the pace again and you're going to see better side-by-side racing. One of the problems we've had with the new tire is that it has made it especially hard when you pedal the throttle. We haven't been able to pedal it and catch it to get the car going again like we used to. I think that was just the characteristics of the tire.
"It has been frustrating," he continued. "We made progress testing at Topeka and I think our Green crew will have a lot of confidence going to Chicago."
They'll find out just how good the new tires are during qualifying Friday and Saturday.
For the Record . . .
Capps' best showing at Route 66 Raceway has been a semifinal finish two years ago.
Johnson has failed to qualify here twice, 1999 while driving his Top Fuel dragster, and this race last year. He did qualify at the fall event at Route 66 in 2001and advanced to the quarterfinals.