BRISTOL, Tenn., June 30, 2000 - Ron Capps and his U.S. Tobacco Co. Camaro teammates won't be adding to their third-place NHRA Funny Car point total during the Winston Showdown, July 7-9 at Bristol Dragway, because points aren't available.
BRISTOL, Tenn., June 30, 2000 - Ron Capps and his U.S. Tobacco Co. Camaro teammates won't be adding to their third-place NHRA Funny Car point total during the Winston Showdown, July 7-9 at Bristol Dragway, because points aren't available. Cash is - $200,000 going to the winner.
Now that provides plenty of incentive for Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's race team and all the others who will gather at Bruton Smith's two-year-old drag racing facility.
To claim it, Capps must survive the season's only race that pits Funny Car drivers against Top Fuel drivers. This is the second time the categories have fought for $200 grand. John Force, the nine-time Funny Car champion, won it last year. Funny Car drivers will leave the starting line almost three-tenths of a second (.28) ahead of the dragsters on each run, that is guaranteed. After that, it's up to the individual drivers.
"Last year the Funny Cars had almost a four-tenths (.37) head start, so things will be different this year," said Capps. "Qualifying with the dragsters and racing against them was different. I had the chance to run against my Snake Racing teammate, Larry Dixon, during qualifying last year. This race is the only time that can happen.
"During the race last year we'd leave the line and at half-track I'd begin looking for a dragster's front wheel to pop up beside me. Overall, the race was fun and I think it will be more fun the second time. I think we all learned more last year about how we can race each other."
The Showdown seeds 10 drivers in each category into the field, leaving two positions open. The seeds are the current Winston champions and the nine drivers winning races over the past few years. Capps will be one of those qualifying for a position.
"I talked to 'Ace' (crew chief Ed "Ace" McCulloch) and we are going to try to qualify No. 1, just like we would if this was a series race," Capps said.
"It's important for us to get solidly into the field because we aren't seeded. It's also important because it will match us against a dragster that's in the bottom half of the field.
"Fortunately Bristol is a very good track and the lanes are pretty even," he continued. "That takes away a lot of variables so we can concentrate on racing our lane." The 12 Funny Car drivers and 12 Top Fuel drivers square off in the first round Saturday at 5 p.m. Four of the first-round losers, two from each category, will be reinserted into the program for Sunday's second round. Reigning Winston champions (Tony Schumacher in Top Fuel and Force) have first priority, followed by No. 1 qualifiers, then those drivers with the quickest losing elapsed times in the first round.
"That's another incentive for us to be the top qualifier," Capps added.
He has qualified first once in 2000 (Phoenix, 4.858 seconds), and his 4.811-second run at Dallas in May is the quickest in this first season with a 90-percent nitromethane fuel rule. He has qualified outside the top eight only three times in the first 11 races.
Last year at Bristol Capps started No. 8 and lost in the first round. That's something he and the U.S. Tobacco Co. team want to avoid this year. Their eyes are on the biggest one-race payday in NHRA competition.