CAPPS, RUNNER-UP AT READING, SETS SIGHTS ON REPEAT WIN AT TOPEKA TOPEKA, Kan. - During a season that has been anything but fun, Ron Capps has maintained an enthusiastic air of optimism. "We're going to be all right once we get things ...
CAPPS, RUNNER-UP AT READING, SETS SIGHTS ON REPEAT WIN AT TOPEKA
TOPEKA, Kan. - During a season that has been anything but fun, Ron Capps has maintained an enthusiastic air of optimism. "We're going to be all right once we get things turned around," the driver of Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's Copenhagen Racing Camaro Funny Car said. "All we need to do is win a few rounds of racing." Well Capps seems to be a good prognosticator, too, because he has been winning some rounds of competition. He's climbed into the top 10 and doesn't believe the rise in the standings will stop there. Capps earned his first final-round appearance of the NHRA season at the Keystone Nationals (Sept. 19 at Reading, Pa.) and is hopeful of using that as a springboard to better things. Like a repeat victory at the Advance Auto Parts Nationals, Oct. 1-3, at Heartland Park and more race wins as the season winds down. "We know we're out of championship contention this year so our emphasis is to win as many races as we can before the season ends," said Capps. "We need to find the consistency that wins races." With the triumvirate of crew chief Todd Okuhara, advisor Roland Leong and Dale Armstrong, who will take over crew chief duties next year, working on the tune-up, the car's performances have improved in the last three outings. Capps qualified second (at Brainerd, Minn., with a 4.924-second run), third at Indianapolis (4.902 seconds) and third at Reading (5.001 seconds). He also won the special Bud Shootout event (and $100,000) the day before the U.S. Nationals at Indy. The Cope Racing crew would like to continue its winning ways at Topeka, a track Capps says is "a great place to race. The track is good and so is the air (atmospheric conditions)." The last of Capps' five 1998 victories came at Heartland Park last October when he won the rain-delayed race at 1:30 a.m. Sunday. But he hasn't won since. "I guess that means it has been a long time since our last win," said Capps. "I hope we don't have to wait much longer. I'll even race again at 1:30 a.m. if I can win." Capps was pleased with his showing at Reading, "but we would've been much happier with a win," he said. "The car's performance showed promise but we just had some stupid stuff happen during race day," he continued. "It felt good to go rounds, that's for sure. You start to forget how it feels after the season we've had. We feel like we are doing better." He had to knock out Bob Gilbertson, Frank Pedregon and Cory Lee before squaring off against Tommy Johnson Jr. in the Reading finale. "We had been having problems all day, but we really thought we had them fixed before the final," said Capps. "We thought it would run a 4.95 or a 5.0 (seconds) like it did in qualifying, but about one second into the run it shook real bad. I pedaled it and the car took off, but I had to click it real early because the engine kicked out a couple rods." Johnson won with a 5.108 at 281.51 mph to Capps' 5.363 at 251.88. Capps and the Cope Racing crew needed a little good luck to reach the last round. They discovered a serious engine problem while warming the engine prior to the quarterfinal round against Pedregon. "We were trying to nurse it through the burnout and get the car staged," said Capps. "I deep-staged, trying to get him to red-light because I knew I didn't plan on running all the way down the track. My car started to shake and I got off the throttle. Then I saw a ball of flame from his car and I pushed it to half-throttle and drove by him. We were lucky to get through the round." He did so with a 6.751 at 159.74 mph. "It was nice to have something other than bad luck for a change," Capps concluded. Capps has 665 points but is only 10 points behind seventh-place Tim Wilkerson in the standings.
Ron Capps Facts: Age: 34 Hometown: La Costa, Calif. Final-round record: 8/13 (7/11 Funny Car, 1/2 Top Fuel); Last win: Topeka, Kan., 10/17/98; Quickest time: 4.864 seconds; Fastest speed: 315.45 mph At Heartland Park Topeka: Best finish, won 1998 race 1999 Winston Series Standing: 10th, 665 points.