Prudhomme, McCulloch working to solve problems.

Prudhomme, Mcculloch working to solve problems plaguing Skoal Racing Team. TOPEKA, Kan., May 22, 2002 - After 40 years in drag racing, there isn't much that surprises Don Prudhomme. He's experienced good days and not-so-good days in the sport.

Prudhomme, Mcculloch working to solve problems plaguing Skoal Racing Team.

TOPEKA, Kan., May 22, 2002 - After 40 years in drag racing, there isn't much that surprises Don Prudhomme. He's experienced good days and not-so-good days in the sport. And he's not bashful when it comes to stepping up and addressing certain situations.

Like his struggling Skoal Racing Funny Car team, for example.

"When a company's stock (value) goes down, the shareholders look to the company president for answers," Prudhomme said. "When our cars aren't running good, I'm the one responsible because I'm the one who hires the people on the team."

Prudhomme and crew chief Ed "The Ace" McCulloch were searching for reasons why the cars were not running well following Sunday's NHRA SuperNationals at Englishtown, N.J. There isn't time to waste. The team returns to NHRA Powerade Series competition again this week in the O'Reilly Summer Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka, May 24-26.

Tommy Johnson Jr.'s Special Paint Scheme Skoal Racing Camaro was only one to make the 16-car field, qualifying 14th. In the process, however, he bumped teammate Ron Capps and the Green Skoal Racing Camaro out of the line-up and Capps wasn't able to get back in.

"We're going to turn it around," said Prudhomme. "Yeah, we've been struggling, but we're working on fixing it. We'll hang in there . . . and it's going to get better. We don't have any immediate changes planned.

"I feel bad for Capps and Johnson. They are great drivers and we've let them down. It's hard on them because they want to win races. We will get it back to where we belong."

McCulloch would've preferred testing Monday in Englishtown but the track was not open. "If we'd been able to stay there, it would've been a big asset. But we're going to come out swinging at Topeka better than we have been."

A dejected Capps said "it was embarrassing first of all, but it wasn't for lack of effort. It has been tough on Ace and his assistant, Todd Okuhara. They've been working hard trying to figure these cars out and they're baffled. They have a tough job, but when you lose a qualifying attempt it makes it even tougher. At the last couple races we've had rain and lost two runs and when you're in a slump like we are it makes it even harder. We just have to keep our heads up. It can only get better from here."

Capps won at Heartland Park in 1998 so he knows where the Heartland Park winner's circle is. He also was runner-up in 2000.

Johnson, who only recently relocated to the Indianapolis area from his hometown of Ottumwa, Iowa, has called Heartland Park his home track since it joined the tour in 1989. He is still looking for his first win at the track, however. He was a semifinalist three times in his Top Fuel dragster and was runner-up in Funny Car in 1999.

"We'll have a fresh outlook in Topeka," commented Johnson. "Maybe returning to my old stomping grounds will help. Actually, the car ran better Sunday but we had parts breakage in the first round against Cruz (Pedregon, who ran 4.863 at 318.24). Hopefully we'll be able to run better this weekend.

"Ron and I just changed places from our last race. He qualified on his last run (at Atlanta) and I didn't. I was glad to make the field but I wasn't happy getting in knowing that Ron was out."

For the record, the two Skoal Racing drivers are 49 points apart - Johnson sixth with 413, Capps eighth at 364.

This is the second of three consecutive races. The action shifts to Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill., next weekend.

-sr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , Don Prudhomme , Tommy Johnson Jr.