POMONA, Calif., Nov. 12, 2000 - Ron Capps, Ed "The Ace" McCulloch and the U.S. Tobacco Co. Funny Car team reached one goal Sunday during the NHRA's season-ending Auto Club Finals at Pomona Raceway - second place in the Winston Series standings.

Capps, four points behind then-No. 2 Jerry Toliver entering the 23rd of 23 races, clinched second place when he defeated Phil Burkhart Jr. in the first round and Bruce Sarver KO'd Toliver. Capps was knocked out in the semifinals by reigning champion John Force, who then won the event over Sarver. Capps finished with 1551 points to Toliver's 1513.

"No matter how good or bad your season has been, you don't want to have a bad weekend in the Finals because you have all winter to think about it," said Capps. "We came in here battling for second place and we got it. We did it too, by using the new Murf McKinney chassis we brought out two races ago. We had our goal to finish second but Ace wanted to test the chassis and we decided to use it, so we did accomplish both our goals.

"This is the second time I've been fortunate enough to finish second to Force (in his four years driving the U.S. Tobacco entries for team owner Don "The Snake" Prudhomme) and that just shows you the caliber of team we have. I'm already excited about our prospects for next year."

McCulloch dialed in a consistent tune-up - three consecutive 4.95-second times. Capps qualified fifth with a 4.951-second, 295.14-mph run, then ran 4.954 at 299.33 to beat Burkhart and 4.951 to oust Tony Pedregon. Force, however, ran 4.858 to get all-important lane choice in the semifinal. Force won with a 4.911 and the U.S. Tobacco Co. Camaro smoked the tires, slowing to a 9.772 at 80.22.

A recap of the 2000 season shows Capps with seven final rounds, one victory, just three first-round losses and the quickest run, 4.811 seconds.

"We've worked on that and Ace did a tremendous job this year (his first tuning Funny Cars)," added Capps.

Now the focus is on 2001, which begins in 80 days with the Winternationals at Pomona Raceway, Feb. 1-4.

Qualified: No. 5, 4.951 seconds at 295.14 mph; First round: Capps, 4.954 at 299.33 def. Phil Burkhart Jr.; Quarterfinals: Capps, 4.951 at 298.54 def. Tony Pedregon; Semifinals: John Force def. Capps.

Pro Winners: Top Fuel - Gary Scelzi, Funny Car - John Force, Pro Stock - Kurt Johnson.