Bristol: Capps, Johnson preview

Capps, Johnson look for good things at Thunder Valley Nationals. BRISTOL, Tenn., April 21, 2003 - One of the busiest parts of the 2003 NHRA POWERade Series schedule looms just ahead, and Ron Capps and Tommy Johnson are eager for it to get ...

Capps, Johnson look for good things at Thunder Valley Nationals.

BRISTOL, Tenn., April 21, 2003 - One of the busiest parts of the 2003 NHRA POWERade Series schedule looms just ahead, and Ron Capps and Tommy Johnson are eager for it to get started.

Capps and Johnson, teammates on Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's Skoal Racing team, look at the five-races-in-six-weeks portion of the season as an opportunity to solidify their claims of Funny Car title contenders.

Capps led the series earlier, but a first-round setback two weeks ago in Houston settled him in fifth spot. Johnson, meanwhile, climbed into sixth position.

Their first chance to enhance their positions - the Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway - unfolds April 25-27.

This is the place where Capps finished second in the special Winston Challenge in 2000 and came back a year later to win the first NHRA national event at the new facility built over the site of the old IHRA track. And he's developed an affinity for the facility.

"There are certain tracks you feel like you can do well at," said Capps, "and Bristol Dragway is one of those for me. The track is great. I'd always read about the old track when Snake, Don Garlits and Shirely Muldowney raced there. To go there now and make a run and hear the sound bouncing around the mountains when you're coasting with your parachutes out is an awesome sound."

Crew chief Ed "Ace" McCulloch and assistant crew chief Todd Okuhara had to take step back after the first three events because Capps' Skoal Racing Green Chevy hit the wall at Gainesville, Fla., and damaged the front end.

"We ended up rebuilding the car from my feet forward," Capps noted. "That, basically, turned it into a new car with new tubing and Ace, Todd and the crew had to start over at our Las Vegas race earlier this month and find out what it likes and what it doesn't. They also need to find out what clutch combination works well with it."

Capps wants to make amends for his latest race, April 13 at Houston, when Cruz Pedregon beat him off the starting line in the first round and won, 4.991 seconds at 303.98 mph to 4.958 at 306.95.

Capps, from Carlsbad, Calif., has 320 POWERade points, trailing fourth-place Del Worsham by nine points and third-place Whit Bazemore by 61. Tony Pedregon leads with 464.

Johnson, meanwhile, is 58 points behind Capps following his quarterfinal finish at Houston when he suffered his first red-light start in eight years.

"I can't remember when it was it was so long ago," he remarked, "so I'll definitely be ready to go at Bristol. I've done well there at the old track. We have a good racecar and my Blue Skoal Racing crew is getting better at every race. This is a good place to get our five races in six weeks run off on the right foot.

"I think we are making serious progress toward reaching our goals. It has taken Mike Green, our crew chief, a little while to figure out what the Funny Cars likes vs. the dragsters. He spent most of last year with Darrell Gwynn's Top Fuel team and had that car running very well."

Johnson has been to the semifinals twice this year and has already run quicker and faster than he did last season - 4.804 seconds at 321.04 mph. The speed is a career best that improved a 320.05 run in 1999.

"The tuning choices Mike has to make now for track and weather conditions are very different than the ones he made with the dragster," Johnson said. "That's what he's been working on for the last two or three races. He's been finding out what works and what doesn't, and that's what's been making our team better - him being able to adjust for the different track and atmospheric conditions and the crew being able to carry out what he wants. He and assistant crew chief Tommy DeLago are working well together.

"We are way ahead of where we were last year," he concluded.   "I
believe we are a win waiting to happen.  It might as well be at Bristol."

-dpr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , Tommy Johnson , Cruz Pedregon , Don Garlits , Darrell Gwynn