BRAINERD, Minn., August 11, 2000 - Every year about this time the Brainerd Lakes area gets busy. Visitors from around the country converge, not for fishing and water sports that are a staple of the region but for the 19th annual Colonel's...
BRAINERD, Minn., August 11, 2000 - Every year about this time the Brainerd Lakes area gets busy. Visitors from around the country converge, not for fishing and water sports that are a staple of the region but for the 19th annual Colonel's Truck Accessories Nationals.
The only thing the drivers will be angling for is a race win. The only trophy catch will be the NHRA's award to the winner.
Ron Capps likes to fish, but he's more intent on driving Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's U.S. Tobacco Co. Camaro into the winner's circle after the Aug. 18-20 race at Brainerd International Raceway. He knows the way there. He won this race two years ago and was runner-up in 1997.
One of the highlights of Capps' 1999 season was a semifinal finish at BIR. He qualified second (4.924 seconds at 295.79 mph), then beat Terry Haddock and Tony Pedregon before engine failure sidelined him in a semifinal run against Whit Bazemore.
"We've always seemed to run good there," Capps said, "even when we hadn't been doing that well at other tracks. Actually, Brainerd has been a good track for me in other ways, too. In a sense, it's where my driving career really began.
"In 1993, when I was crew chief on Darryl Hitchman's Alcohol Dragster team, I met John Mitchell at BIR for the first time and planted the seed that I was interested in becoming a driver. At the end of the race, Mitchell asked me if I wanted to drive his A-fuel dragster in 1994."
Capps did, then moved to Top Fuel with Roger Primm in 1995-96 and joined Prudhomme in 1997.
Capps reached his third career Funny Car final here in 1997, losing to John Force in the final when the throttle cable broke. The next season he beat Force in the final round and took the NHRA Winston Series points lead. Capps won five times in 1998 and finished second to Force in the final standings.
"I usually have a lot of relatives at the race because my wife's family is from the Brainerd area and Minneapolis," Capps added.
Capps and the U.S. Tobacco Co. crew are fourth in points with 891, 52 behind Tony Pedregon. Force leads with 1169, followed by Jerry Toliver at 1094.
"We've obviously had a pretty decent year so far, but we are disappointed in ourselves because we haven't won," said Capps. "We've been to four finals but we haven't been able to close any with a win yet."
Capps reached the quarterfinals at Sonoma, Calif. (Aug. 6), before falling to Force. Crew chief Ed "Ace" McCulloch discovered a faulty fuel pump during Saturday qualifying and replaced it before Capps' last run of the day.
On race day, Capps had the two quickest elapsed times in the right lane (not the lane of choice). He beat Del Worsham in one of the closest races of the day - 5.075 at 303.64 mph to 5.116 at 303.50 - in the first round. Against Force, Capps left the line first (.497 to .517) but was unable to hold off Force's 5.038 with his 5.156.
"We were lucky Ace found the problem with the fuel pump when he did because we were able to make one qualifying run with it so he could get a tune-up baseline," Capps noted. "We need to qualify better (than 10th at Sonoma) so we don't have to face guys like Force in the second round. Running that (5.)07 in the first round was important. It was the quickest run in the right lane all day but it still didn't give us lane choice against Force.
"To fix the fuel pump and have the car run like it did gives us a lot of optimism," he continued. "That will help us at Brainerd."
Add the performance tradition at BIR and this could be a formula for race day success. <pre> Ron Capps Statistics:
Age: 35 Hometown: Carlsbad, Calif.
Final-round record: 8/17 (7/15 Funny Car, 1/2 Top Fuel)
Last Final: Commerce, Ga., 5/7/00; Last win: Topeka, Kan., 10/17/98
Quickest time: 4.811 seconds, 5/28/00, Ennis, Texas; Fastest speed: 315.45 mph, 10/24/97, Baytown, Texas
Standing after 14 races: Fourth, 891 points