SEATTLE, July 19, 2000 - Ron Capps has good memories of Seattle International Raceway. -- It's where he won his first NHRA national event in 1995, driving Roger Primm's Top Fuel dragster; -- It's where he claimed his first Funny Car...
SEATTLE, July 19, 2000 - Ron Capps has good memories of Seattle International Raceway.
-- It's where he won his first NHRA national event in 1995, driving Roger Primm's Top Fuel dragster;
-- It's where he claimed his first Funny Car pole position (1997);
-- And it's where he won the Funny Car title in 1998, driving Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's U.S. Tobacco Co. Camaro.
"I can't wait to get back to SIR because I know the way our car's running this year that we're going to be real tough in the next few races," said Capps, who returns for the Prolong Northwest Nationals, July 28-30. "The track has been a great place for me from the get-go, starting in 1995."
Crew chief Ed "Ace" McCulloch also has fond memories of SIR, beginning with his days as one of the top Funny Car drivers in the sport (the 1970s and '80s). He finished second to Prudhomme in the 1976 Fallnationals - the predecessor of the Northwest Nationals. McCulloch tuned Doug Kalitta's Top Fuel dragster to a runner-up finish here last year.
"In the old days, we had a lot of experience at SIR because we ran there all the time," McCulloch pointed out. "Right now that doesn't make any difference. I do know the weather plays a big factor on how good the track will be, just like it does at every other racetrack. If it's sunny and hot, the track will be slippery. If it's cool and overcast, it will be easier to get down the track."
Capps, who says he's "heard a lot of stories about Snake and Ace racing at SIR in the 1970s," would like to add victory No. 9 to his resume. He ranks fourth in NHRA Winston Series points with 787, eight behind third-place Tony Pedregon.
And it should be noted that while Capps has been successful at SIR, it's been an all or nothing situation. In five races at the track, he has those two wins, but he's lost in the first round the other three times, including last year.
The U.S. Tobacco Co. team wants to avoid another early race-day exit this time around. After compiling an enviable record of only one first-round setback in the season's initial 11 events, Capps now has an unenviable streak of two straight opening losses.
"You have to figure there will be two or three races during the (23-race) season that you'd just like to throw away," Capps commented, "and those would be our last two races. We lost a close race (to Al Hofmann) at St. Louis and we had a parts failure at Denver (July 16, also against Hofmann). Things like that are going to happen, unfortunately."
Capps, who qualified ninth in the mile-high air, jumped ahead off the starting line with a .477 reaction time - the quickest of the day in Funny Car - to Hofmann's .521. But a (connecting) rod broke (in the engine) eight-tenths of a second into the run and mechanical chaos ensued. The engine's supercharger exploded in a fireball as the car went down the track.
"The car was rattling and shaking a lot earlier than it usually does," Capps said. "I didn't know the rod had broken so I gave (the throttle) a quick pedal. The engine went sour almost immediately and exploded. My main concern was getting the car stopped so I could keep damage to the Camaro body to a minimum. It looks like we'll be able to run the body at Seattle.
"It was unfortunate because we had a chance to gain some points on (second place) John Force. We saw him lose before our run. It will be nice to get back to sea level for races at Seattle and Sonoma (Aug. 4-6). We'll see if we can gain some momentum in Seattle and move up in points."
What better place to start than SIR?