Don Prudhomme's Skoal Racing Report
Capps Finishes Fourth, Johnson 10TH Following Auto Club Finals
POMONA, Calif., Nov. 11, 2001 - It was a short, albeit adventurous NHRA Auto Club Finals Sunday at Pomona Raceway for Skoal Racing teammates Ron Capps and Tommy Johnson Jr.
Johnson became the first team member to dip into the 4.7-second range with a qualifying run of 4.797 seconds that put him fourth in the 16-car field, which was the quickest in history, going from Whit Bazemore's 4.741 to Bob Gilbertson's 4.889 seconds. The driver of the Blue Skoal Racing Camaro also was the first to go into the sand trap at the end of the track following a first-round victory over Tim Wilkerson.
Capps, meanwhile, qualified sixth (4.814 seconds) but experienced mechanical problems in the opening round and lost to eventual race winner Del Worsham. Worsham also knocked Capps out of third place into fourth with the win.
"I felt comfortable going into eliminations but whatever happened to our car Saturday (in the final qualifying session) turned up again in the first round," said Capps. "As soon as I stepped on the throttle the tires went up in smoke."
Capps finished the season in fourth place with 1451 points. It marked the fifth time in his five-year Funny Car career that he's been in the top 10. He was fifth in 1997, second in 1998 and 2000 and ninth in 1999.
Johnson wound up 10th, his 1127 points one behind ninth-place Dean Skuza.
Johnson was surprised when his parachutes failed to come out against Tim Wilkerson. "I hit the 'chutes (lever) and nothing happened," Johnson recalled. "I hit it again and nothing happened, so I grabbed the brake as hard as I could but I couldn't stop the car before it got into the sand."
The fact that it was his fastest run of the weekend at 318.32 mph compounded the situation, too.
Fortunately, there was little damage and he was ready for his quarterfinal round against Gary Densham. But misfortune struck again when the car's timers didn't work. The pneumatic air system didn't start and Johnson shut it off.
"I think we're all looking forward to next year," Johnson concluded.
For those keeping track, the 2002 Winternationals event is scheduled Feb. 7-10 at Pomona Raceway.
Johnson, No. 4, 4.797 seconds at 316.67 mph
Capps, No. 6, 4.814 seconds at 313.29 mph.
Johnson, 4.819 at 318.32 def. Tim Wilkerson
Del Worsham def. Capps
Quarterfinals: Gary Densham def. Johnson.