TOPEKA, Kan., Sept. 21, 2000 - Ron Capps remembers the day like it was last week. "The race had been rained out and we came back two weeks later to finish it on a Saturday," he said. "It rained again and we didn't really get started until...
TOPEKA, Kan., Sept. 21, 2000 - Ron Capps remembers the day like it was last week.
"The race had been rained out and we came back two weeks later to finish it on a Saturday," he said. "It rained again and we didn't really get started until late in the day. We had eliminations at night, we were in the final and it was way past midnight."
The date: October 17, 1998. The site: Heartland Park.
The outcome: Capps defeated Al Hofmann in the Funny Car final . . . about 1:20 a.m.
The reason Capps remembers so well? It was his fifth victory of that season. And he hasn't won since.
Capps and his U.S. Tobacco Co. Camaro Funny Car team will be attempting to drive into the Heartland Park winner's circle again during the Advance Auto Parts Nationals, Sept. 29-Oct. 1.
They arrive on a good note. Capps was runner-up at the most recent event, the Keystone Nationals (Sept. 17) at Reading, Pa., the fifth time in 18 NHRA Winston Series races in 2000 that he's finished second.
"Who would've known then that we wouldn't win again?" Capps asked. "Every final we've been in this year we felt like we had a chance to win and we did what we felt it would take to win."
Crew chief Ed "Ace" McCulloch, who's been with the team since the final 1999 race, just shakes his head when discussing the number of second-place finishes without a victory. "It's really disappointing to get to the finals and not be able to close the deal," he said.
Capps, for one, knows they aren't about to quit trying. The entire crew has a goal they want to reach when the final points are tabulated.
"Right now we've committed ourselves to trying to finish second overall," he said. "It's a large challenge to catch (Jerry) Toliver, but that's what we want to do. We have five races to get there."
Capps has made inroads into Toliver's lead in their last few outings, trimming it from 141 to 79 points, 1247-1168.
"We are looking forward to racing at Topeka," commented Capps. "It's always nice to go to a track where we've had some success. We know the car should run well there.
"To be honest, we've been doing some testing for next year. Ace wants to take a look at some different combinations. This was Ace's first year tuning a Funny Car and we just want to get a head start on 2001.
"What we are hoping is that we can test and still win some races."
At Reading, Capps had an opportunity to grab Funny Car career win No. 8, but he was outrun in the finals by Bruce Sarver, 4.993 seconds at 303.03 mph to 5.063 at 293.73 mph. Capps did eliminate Jim Epler in a tire-smoking first-round match, 5.715 at 230.45 to 6.870 at 118.42; Frank Pedregon by four-thousandths of second, 5.050 to 5.057; and Tony Pedregon in a virtual dead heat, 5.025 at 293.09 to 5.015 at 297.48. The narrow margin came at the starting line, where Capps left first, .487 to .497.
Capps and the U.S. Tobacco Co. Funny Car crew may be reminiscing about the 1998 win but they are focusing on creating another victory at Heartland Park in 2000.