SONOMA, Calif. - Ron Capps, driver of the Skoal Funny Car on the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series circuit, takes you on the ride of your life with a breakdown of what it's like to cover the drag strip at Infineon Raceway at speeds in excess of 300...
SONOMA, Calif. - Ron Capps, driver of the Skoal Funny Car on the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series circuit, takes you on the ride of your life with a breakdown of what it's like to cover the drag strip at Infineon Raceway at speeds in excess of 300 mph. The series will visit Infineon Raceway Aug. 2-4 for the FRAM Autolite Nationals. It will mark the only visit to Northern California this season by the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Infineon Raceway has always been one of my favorite racetracks because that's where I went to watch the drag races even before I began working on and driving racecars. I lived in Cupertino in the South Bay and Infineon Raceway was my home track.
Fans always ask me what it's like to drive my Skoal Racing Camaro and it is something words can't really describe - but I'll give it a try. Come ride with me on a quick trip down the Infineon Raceway quarter-mile drag strip:
For this run I'm already strapped into the car and we are now at the starting line awaiting the signal to start the engine.
Driving a Funny Car is great because, unlike Top Fuel, I have everybody right in front of me. Some of the crew members are sitting on the front tires and the rest of the crew is gathered around the front of the car. It's a great moment to reflect on what you are about to do and the whole team effort. One of the great things about Infineon Raceway was being able to look at all the hills around the track and the crowd on the right side of the track.
Once they start the car you can hear the engine popping and banging. I give the crew the thumbs up and they shut the body down. Then comes one of the best parts of the run, which is the burnout. You roll through and do the burnout. Usually when I do a burnout in the right lane I could see the fans yelling and screaming out of the corner of my eye. That gets you pumped up in the car. Then I back the car up to the starting line. Sometimes I'll check the NHRA's jumbo screen to see where the other car is as I back up.
When I roll up there and get ready to stage the car I can look out and see the huge crowd on both sides of the track. Infineon Raceway is a tricky track and used to have one of the shortest concrete starting pads in the series. That meant the crew chiefs were always trying to figure out the track. You always had to be on your toes, ready for anything once the car left the concrete starting pad and transitioned to the asphalt. When you're staging the car there, you are trying to make sure you cut a good light but you know that once you hit the throttle you have to be ready for anything.
The moment before the yellow and green lights come on is the most intense time. All my focus is on the lights, and when I see a flash of yellow, I nail the throttle. The engine goes from idle to 8,000 rpm.
When the car leaves the starting line, I'm trying to keep it straight and in the groove. The car goes from 0 to 100 mph in less than a second and I listen to the sounds the engine is making while I focus my eyes on a spot down the track where I'll take my foot off the throttle and hit the parachutes that slow the car.
I'm listening to the engine to see what's going to happen. Sometimes the car will spin the tires. Then they start to smoke. Sometimes the tires will start shaking, and that's when I must decide whether to pedal the throttle to try to stop the tire problems.
Once the car crosses the finish line, I'll pull one chute because the shutdown area at Infineon Raceway is uphill and I'll let the car roll for a while before using the brake. Then I coast to the turnoff road and greet my crew so we can go back to the pit area and begin preparing for the next run.
I can remember racing John Force in the 1997 race at Infineon Raceway. It was the first time I'd been to the track driving Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's Funny Car and I raced Force in the second round.
I left on him at the starting line. That's always something you want to do as a driver - leave the line first. It was a close race and I can remember being next to Force on that run, and hearing his car all the way down the track and not knowing who would win. Our car barely got ahead of him at the finish line.
Remember, from the time the yellow light came on and the car started the timers, it took about five seconds to make the run, at more than 300 mph. Everything happens quickly, or at least you hope it does. I sometimes think I hold my breath during the run. You don't have time to think about things, you just react.