CAPPS HOPES TO REKINDLE WINNING WAYS AT BRAINERD, MINN., RACE BRAINERD, Minn. - At 34, Ron Capps finds himself yearning for the "good old days." To Capps - and the rest of Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's Copenhagen Racing Camaro Funny Car...
CAPPS HOPES TO REKINDLE WINNING WAYS AT BRAINERD, MINN., RACE
BRAINERD, Minn. - At 34, Ron Capps finds himself yearning for the "good old days." To Capps - and the rest of Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's Copenhagen Racing Camaro Funny Car team - those bygone days aren't far removed from the present. They are, in fact, from August 1998, less than 365 days ago. On a bright, sunny Sunday afternoon (Aug. 23), Capps won the NorthStar Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway. It was his second consecutive NHRA Winston Series victory and it put him atop the NHRA Winston Series standings. Capps went on to win five times last year and finish second to perennial champion John Force in points. The thinking in the Cope Racing camp was that 1999 would be better. But it hasn't been. The reason Capps now fondly recalls the win at BIR is simple. He hasn't won yet this season. Even so, Capps hasn't given up hope for a dramatic turnaround. Eight races are still to be run and it is still possible to finish in the top 10. Plus the team is returning to BIR, Aug. 20-22, for the Colonel's NHRA Nationals. In his two previous visits to Brainerd as Prudhomme's Funny Car driver, Capps has won seven rounds and lost one, to Force in the 1997 final round. A faulty throttle cable prevented Capps from making a run in the title round. Capps beat Dean Skuza in last year's finals. "Obviously Brainerd has been a very good place for us to race in the last two years," Capps said. "Unfortunately we aren't fighting for the championship this year but we would like to win some races, and now would be a great time to start. "Last year was special because we left Brainerd and went to Indy (Indianapolis, site of the U.S. Nationals, NHRA's oldest event) with the points lead over Force and two-race win streak." This year, Capps and the Cope Racing crew come to BIR with a two-race-old chassis sitting under the restyled 1999 Camaro body. "We're really trying to get a combination together that will win some races," said Capps. "Crew chief Todd Okuhara and (former crew chief, now advisor) Roland (Leong) have been working hard to get our new car running consistently. Brainerd has been a turning point for us in the past, hopefully it will be again this year. "We're looking ahead a little bit, too, trying to get a combination ready for the Big Bud Shootout (Sept. 5 at Indianapolis)." Capps won the Shootout and its $100,000 top prize last year and would like to win back-to-back titles. In his last outing, at Sonoma, Calif., Aug. 8, Capps did record his quickest elapsed time in six races - 5.045 seconds to qualify eighth. But the tires smoked in the first round and Skuza got the win. "We felt very confident, even though we only qualified eighth," Capps recalled. "We thought we could run a 5.0 (seconds). The car went out and started shaking the tires fast; then it smoked the tires very hard. I gave the throttle a quick pedal but the tires were still spinning really badly. I tried to get the tires hooked up and started squeezing the throttle again and then there was a big concussion." The explosion damaged the Camaro's windshield, side window, burst panel and the front of the body. "It seems the way the year is going, if anything bad is going to happen, it seems to find us," added Capps. "I'm proud of my guys, and proud of the way they've hung in there with no sign of quitting." The crew stopped in Reno, Nevada, on the way to Brainerd to get the carbon fiber body ready to race. Qualifying begins Friday with runs at 2 and 6 p.m. and concludes with Saturday sessions at noon and 4 p.m. Eliminations get underway at 11 a.m. Sunday. -30- Ron Capps Facts:
Age: 34 Hometown: La Costa, Calif.
Final-round record: 8/12 (7/10 Funny Car, 1/2 Top Fuel); Last win: Topeka, Kan., 10/17/98;
Quickest time: 4.864 seconds; Fastest speed: 315.45 mph
At Brainerd International Raceway: Won the Funny Car title in 1998; finished second in 1997.
1999 Winston Series Standing: 16th, 456 points.