Phoenix: Ron Capps preview

QUALIFYING IN TOP HALF IS KEY TO A WINNING SEASON FOR CAPPS CHANDLER, Ariz. (Feb. 21, 2006) - The 2005 Funny Car championship runner-up Ron Capps and the Brut Dodge Stratus Funny Car team are starting off the 2006 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing...

QUALIFYING IN TOP HALF IS KEY TO A WINNING SEASON FOR CAPPS

CHANDLER, Ariz. (Feb. 21, 2006) - The 2005 Funny Car championship runner-up Ron Capps and the Brut Dodge Stratus Funny Car team are starting off the 2006 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series season in a solid position after their runner-up finish at the season-opening event at the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona (Calif.) Feb. 12.

This weekend's Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals at Firebird International Raceway should see even a stronger performance from the Brut Dodge team as most of those pesky early-season glitches were hopefully dealt with at Pomona.

Despite his No. 10 qualifying spot at Pomona, Capps pulled off a second series of steady winning passes to reach the final round, which he lost by a mere six feet to Robert Hight. That's OK, he says. Collecting points and data for the rest of the season towards his first Funny Car crown is key, and qualifying higher is still at the top of the list.

"It's something that we really worked on as far as improving on qualifying points," he said. "You never really worry about exactly where you qualify as long as you have lane choice in the first round, and that means qualifying in the top half. That's the most important thing. Otherwise, you can really win from anywhere in the field, but you definitely want to have that choice first round.

"It's not very good for the stress level, trying to sleep at night not knowing which lane you're going to be in. It could be a lane ruined by a dragster in front of us. You just never know and you want to have that choice.

"Ace (crew chief Ed McCulloch) felt like he left a lot on the table in qualifying in Pomona and he found a pretty significant piece of the tune-up that he just hadn't messed with all weekend because the car had been going down the track. He felt like it probably would have gained us a tenth of a second or so in qualifying. When he said that I was really excited and I slept very well Saturday night.

"And he was right. In the first round of eliminations it was almost 10 mph an hour faster and all day Sunday we were at quite a bit faster speed.

"I love hearing those kinds of things, from Ace especially, because when he says he's found something pretty significant going into race day, it just gets you excited as a driver.

"It's an exciting part of the season when you can leave the Winternationals with good results. The off-season is like forever, so to get out of there with a final-round loss was great. We would have loved to have won the race, of course, but we earned the points and are second in the standings.

"Phoenix, where we went to the finals after a disappointing Winternationals last year, was a big rebound for us. It's all about the conditions changing and crew chiefs adapting and I feel so comfortable in the car right now that we can pretty much roll into anywhere and Ace has a pretty good handle on what he wants to do on the car in whatever conditions.

"We're very hard on ourselves," he continued. "We don't need any criticism because we are our best critics. We had a meeting after Pomona and everybody was real excited and in a good mood. Ace was in a great mood, even though we lost, and we just talked about what we have to do next.

"The Brut Dodge crew gives Ace the absolute best car to tune , with nothing falling off, no leaks, for a lot of runs now. In testing we went down the track just about every run and at Pomona it didn't smoke the tires one time. And we lay out a battle plan for the driver as well and we go right down the road. The Brut Dodge guys are excited. They're working well together and it's a great time right now."

Capps was runner-up to John Force last year at Firebird, winner here in 2003, runner-up to Force in 2000, runner-up again in 1998 (Chuck Etchells) and No. 1 qualifier here in 2000.

-dsr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , John Force , Chuck Etchells , Robert Hight