Ron Capps Ready for Reading

READING, Pa. - It's safe to say Ron Capps has a burning desire to be a successful professional drag racer. It's also safe to say Capps, driver of the Don "The Snake" Prudhomme-owned Copenhagen Racing Camaro Funny Car, has a strong desire to...

READING, Pa. - It's safe to say Ron Capps has a burning desire to be a successful professional drag racer. It's also safe to say Capps, driver of the Don "The Snake" Prudhomme-owned Copenhagen Racing Camaro Funny Car, has a strong desire to avoid riding in a burning racecar. Sometimes, however, you can't have one without the other. It's an occupational hazard. So Capps, who experienced the worst fire of his driving career during the U.S. Nationals (Sept. 5 at Indianapolis), didn't hesitate to jump back into the repaired car about two hours after his ride turned into a blazing furnace. And after he'd spent 25 minutes in the Indianapolis Raceway Park infield hospital. It didn't phase the Cope Racing crew, either. They rebuilt the car within two hours, then watched as Capps went on to win his second straight special Big Bud Shootout and $100,000. "It was an unbelievable feeling to see those guys put what used to a flaming inferno back together in 90 minutes and have it ready to run," Capps said. Their story on that Sunday afternoon was one of unwavering determination. And it became a highlight in a 1999 NHRA Winston Series season that hasn't had many. The team will be searching for more happy endings during the True Value Keystone Nationals, Sept. 17-19, at Maple Grove Raceway. "I'm looking to better my luck at the track because I haven't done well there in the past," said Capps. "We all want to turn things around. "We had engine problems at Indy so we stayed and tested after the race. We wanted to make sure we got the car down the track without the engine hurting itself. We only ran it to half-track, but the numbers were good and the motor was safe." The motor in the car in the first round of the Shootout wasn't safe. It exploded into flames after Capps defeated Dean Skuza. "It just went kaboom," Capps recalled, "and then it got real hot. The fire was on me and I had a long way to go to get to the Safety Safari, and my feet were already starting to burn. The safety crew did a great job and so did my fire suit." The crew - "I call them the Cope Crusaders," Capps noted - got to work on repairs immediately. The car's carbon-fiber body was destroyed by the fire, which also burned all the wiring. Assisted by the crew from Prudhomme's Top Fuel team, people were working feverishly to get the car ready for a second-round match against Del Worsham. Capps beat Worsham despite the car losing power when a broken throttle cable shut off the engine, then he had to come from behind to defeat Tony Pedregon for the $100,000 payday. Pedregon was pulling away from Capps when his car experienced clutch trouble. "I saw his car in front of me from the start, then my car started gaining momentum on him and we reeled him in," Capps recalled. "You go from highs to lows in just five seconds. I was saying 'I'm going to lose', then to 'I'm catching him', to 'unbelievable, I just won the Bud Shootout again.'" Capps won with a 5.266-second, 256.45-mph run. He was most impressed, however, by work the crew did to keep him racing. "There must've been 30 people working on the car. I still can't believe they got that car together. I have the best crew in the business," Capps said of the group led by crew chief Todd Okuhara and advisor Roland Leong. "We had nothing but bad luck all year before the Shootout. I can't say enough about this team. They never quit." The Cope Racing Camaro crew will be working diligently to get the team's first 1999 win at Maple Grove. With six races to go in the season, Capps hopes to pick up the pace. "If we can get the car back to where it should be," he said, "there's no reason why we shouldn't finish in the top seven. Actually, finishing in the top 10 would be good at this point." It could be called a burning desire - without the flames.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Dean Skuza , Del Worsham , Ron Capps