COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 9, 2000 - Summer doesn't officially begin for another few days, but the forecast for NHRA's annual trek to National Trail Raceway in nearby Kirkersville is almost always hot and humid. Sometimes it's even sunny. ...
COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 9, 2000 - Summer doesn't officially begin for another few days, but the forecast for NHRA's annual trek to National Trail Raceway in nearby Kirkersville is almost always hot and humid. Sometimes it's even sunny.
It shouldn't be any different during the 2000 Pontiac Excitement Nationals, June 16-18, when Ron Capps and Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's U.S. Tobacco Co. Camaro Funny Car team resume their search for a 2000 NHRA victory.
Capps has been close to the winner's circle this season, finishing second four times in the nine Winston Series events that have been completed. (The Spring SuperNationals was postponed from May until Sept. 8-9.) The timeworn cliché about close only counting in horseshoes doesn't apply here. Second place still pays more points than third through 16th and that's why Capps is third in the standing (675). Only John Force (795) and Jerry Toliver (740) have more.
It should be pointed out that Force (three times) and Toliver (once) are the drivers who ended Capps' winning hopes in the finals this season.
There are other reasons why this has been a good year for Capps:
1. He's registered his career-best elapsed time, 4.811 seconds, which also is the quickest in 2000; 2. He's only lost in the first round once;
3. He has 14 more races to add to his win total and championship aspirations.
In a flurry of activity, five national events, plus the non-points Winston Invitational, are scheduled in the next eight weeks.
The first, obviously, is the Pontiac Excitement Nationals at a track where Capps has not enjoyed particularly good results.
"This season has been kind of fun," he said. "There are a lot of races clumped together and that makes it harder on the teams, but it shows which teams are the toughest and which crew chiefs can adjust to the changing conditions.
"The race in Columbus is one where only the strong survive," continued Capps. "The track conditions are tricky and it seems like it is always hot and humid. It should be exciting for us this year because Ace (crew chief Ed "Ace" McCulloch) has shown he can adjust to the hot, sticky conditions. Actually, we're going to be fighting high humidity for the next few races, including at St. Louis (June 22-24). But we'll be running that race at night, so that will definitely be a big change."
In three previous Funny Car races at National Trail Raceway, Capps readched the quarterfinals once and exited in the first round twice. "We are hoping to change all that this year," headded. "The team that does the best through June, July and August is going to be tough to beat for the championship. Right now, our U.S. Tobacco team is in the point chase and we've shown that we are capable of running with the leaders. It is exciting."
There is one thing Capps would like to end at Columbus. His last four losses have come against Force, including two in final rounds.
The latest came in the semifinals of the Route 66 Nationals at Joliet, Ill. (June 4), Force winning with a 4.948-second, 316.90-mph run while Capps had a wild ride and coasted to a 7.219 at 114.25.
"The tires shook real hard and I had to pedal it," Capps recalled. "As soon as I did that the front end went up, so quick it got the car up on the wheelie bar. I couldn't see where I was going but I knew the car was being pushed toward the wall. The car glanced off the wall - the headers took the most of the impact - and only a little bit of the back of the car hit the wall.
"Losing to Force again is very frustrating. We're trying to gain ground (in the standings) on both Force and Toliver, but, unfortunately, they went one more round than we did."
Force beat Toliver to set an NHRA record with his 86th career victory.
"There are still a lot of races to go," Capps concluded. "Anything can happen."