POMONA, Calif., January 26, 2001 - Ed "The Ace" McCulloch, crew chief on Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's new two-car Funny Car team, will be happy to see the curtain go up on the National Hot Rod Association's 50th anniversary season with the...
POMONA, Calif., January 26, 2001 - Ed "The Ace" McCulloch, crew chief on Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's new two-car Funny Car team, will be happy to see the curtain go up on the National Hot Rod Association's 50th anniversary season with the AutoZone Nationals, Feb. 1-4, at Pomona Raceway.
For one thing, it'll mean the crew members on Ron Capps' Skoal Racing Green Chevrolet Camaro and Tommy Johnson Jr.'s Skoal Racing Blue Camaro can concentrate on racing instead of getting ready to race.
In the last 60 days, McCulloch and Prudhomme have orchestrated a doubling of their racing inventory - from driver, to crew, to racecar, to tools and equipment, to new tractor-trailer, to uniforms, etc. They've met the completion deadlines, now it's time to begin working on their racing goals.
In a nutshell, Capps and Johnson want to finish first and second in NHRA Funny Car wars. They'll fight among themselves to see who finishes on top. It is, they realize, a daunting task because John Force has worn the Winston Series crown 10 of the last 11 years. Force's only miss in that remarkable run was way back in 1992.
There is a quiet confidence emanating from Prudhomme's Vista, Calif. shop. McCulloch wanted to give Capps and Johnson identically prepared racecars, then he went out and proved it was possible. During the team's test session in Phoenix, Johnson stopped the clocks at 4.869 seconds, 312.64 mph. A few minutes later Capps came through with a 4.871 at 312.78 mph, just two-thousandths of a second difference and 14-hundredths apart on speed.
"I never dreamed you could tune two Funny Cars to run so close," said Johnson. "Two-thousandths of a second is splitting hairs. We have everything we need to finish 1-2.
"I definitely feel you need a two-car team to be competitive with Force," added Johnson. "In just the few runs we made during testing we could see there is a huge advantage a two-car team has over a one-car team."
Force expanded to two cars in 1996 when he hired Tony Pedregon. Since then Pedregon has finished second to Force three times. Capps, runner-up in 2000 and 1998, is the only other driver to finish second in the last five seasons. "I'm as excited about this season as everyone else is at Snake Racing," said Capps. "It was great to test well. The last time we tested well was in 1998 and we went on to finish second. Maybe that's a good omen and a sign of things to come. We also won the Winternationals that year. (Larry Dixon, driving Prudhomme's Top Fuel dragster, also won, giving Prudhomme his only double victory as an owner.) "We aren't going to be content to finish second again. We're going to do everything we can to move up one notch in the standings," continued Capps.
Capps, from Carlsbad, Calif., has won eight times since joining Prudhomme's Funny Car team in 1997. He was a finalist seven times last season, winning once, and posting the quickest run of the year, 4.811 seconds.
Johnson, from Ottumwa, Iowa, won three Top Fuel races in five finals (1990-96) and added two Funny Car wins in four finals in 1999 while driving part of the season for car owner Joe Gibbs.
"I'm pleased all the work paid off," commented McCulloch. "If we continue on the same path the way we started, we're going to have a good year."
Prudhomme, meanwhile, tempered his pleasure about testing success with the reality of going to the Winternationals.
"Our Skoal Racing team came together well during testing," he said. "I think Ed's done a tremendous job getting everybody working together and in sync. I'm pretty impressed, but that was just the first hurdle. Now we are looking at the second big hurdle - going to Pomona and getting it on. We have a big year in front of us."
And the first of 24 Winston Series events begins with qualifying Thursday and Friday at 3 p.m. and Saturday at 1 and 3:30 p.m. Sunday's finals get under way at 11 a.m.