Skoal Racing Teammates Have Same Objectives At Auto Club Finals - Race Each Other In Title Round
POMONA, Calif., Nov. 2, 2001 - Twenty-three races, four victories, seven final rounds and not one head-to-head race between Skoal Racing Funny Car teammates Ron Capps and Tommy Johnson Jr.
The two drivers are quite surprised they haven't been in opposite lanes when a race or round win was at stake. But they have one more chance to rectify the situation during the season-ending Auto Club Finals at Pomona Raceway, Nov. 8-11.
"I never would've expected that," said Johnson, who has one win and one runner-up finish in his Don "The Snake" Prudhomme-owned Blue Skoal Racing Camaro. The newcomer to the team, Johnson was the No. 1 qualifier at the Winternationals when the season began here in February.
"I would've thought for sure we'd have met by now, especially in qualifying, because we've always seemed to qualify close together," Johnson continued. "But it happened only once in qualifying, and that was in Houston in April, our third race of the year. I think I've raced everybody in the class except Ron."
As for Capps, driver of the Green Skoal Racing Camaro, his perfect scenario has the two drivers meeting in the Auto Club Finals finals. It would certainly provide a happy ending to an interesting NHRA Winston Series season.
Capps comes to Pomona after winning his third race of the season at Las Vegas (Oct. 28). It was his 12th career win and 11th since he began driving Funny Cars for Prudhomme in 1997. "The last two races (at Dallas and Las Vegas) have been tough because Snake and Ace (crew chief Ed 'The Ace' McCulloch) decided we needed to sacrifice a little glory of running in the 4.70s (seconds) with John Force, Whit Bazemore and the guys. We sacrificed it to do testing for next year because Ace wanted to try some new things.
"He told me after the Dallas race that he was putting the old setup back in the car for the races at Las Vegas and Pomona and implementing a little of what he learned testing," added Capps. "So it is exciting to get ready for the Finals knowing this tune-up can win races.
Capps also is challenging Del Worsham and Tony Pedregon for third place. Capps took firm grip on No. 3 with his impressive win at Las Vegas. He has 1417 points, 39 ahead of Worsham (1378) and 67 in front of Pedregon (1350).
"It's amazing what a win will do for the morale of the team, the team owner and sponsors," said the Carlsbad, Calif., driver. "Even though we're not in the championship hunt, when you're battling for third, fourth or fifth, a win is a win. They are so hard to come by. We'll be trying to win the Finals and end the season on a good note."
Capps advanced to the quarterfinals of the Winternationals and NHRA 50th Anniversary Nationals in his first two stops of the year at Pomona Raceway. His other 2001 wins have come at Bristol, Tenn. and Brainerd, Minn. He was runner-up at Atlanta and Seattle.
Johnson won at Las Vegas in April and was second at St. Louis. He's challenging for seventh place with Frank Pedregon and Gary Densham. Johnson, from Denver, is ninth (1072), one point behind Densham and 45 behind Pedregon (1117). Johnson, like Capps, reached the quarterfinals at the first two Pomona events this year.
"This hasn't been a bad season, but not what our expectations were at the beginning of the year," Johnson said. "We aren't going to obtain our goal of having both cars finish in the top five but, at the same time, it hasn't been all bad, either. We've learned a lot about how a two-car team operates and have come up with ideas on how it can be improved. I think we'll be a lot more competitive next year."
As for what he expects race weekend, Johnson echoed Capps' comments.
"It would be nice to race each other and do it in the finals," said Johnson. "That would be a good way to cap the season."
ALSO NOTED - Should Capps finish either third or fourth it will mark his highest Winston Series finish in odd years. He was fifth in 1997 and ninth in '99. He was second in even years 1998 and 2000. Maybe he can improve his even year finishes by one in 2002 . . . Capps has one Pomona Raceway victory, the 1998 Winternationals, when he and Top Fuel teammate Larry Dixon both won. The two were double winners again for Prudhomme at Brainerd, Minn., in August . . . Johnson's best series finish in Funny Car is 10th in 1999. He was eighth (1995) and ninth (1994) in his only top 10 appearances driving in Top Fuel . . . Thanks to Capps' win at Las Vegas (Oct. 28), Prudhomme now has 28 wins as a team owner - 16 from Dixon, 11 from Capps and one from Johnson. Overall, Prudhomme's winning total is 77, 49 coming from his Funny Car (35) and Top Fuel (14) driving days.