Columbus: Skoal Racing Team preview

Skoal Racing teammates hope to turn performances around this week. COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 11, 2002 - Tommy Johnson Jr. spent Monday taking turns driving not only his Blue Skoal Racing Funny Car but teammate Ron Capps' Green car as well during a...

Skoal Racing teammates hope to turn performances around this week.

COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 11, 2002 - Tommy Johnson Jr. spent Monday taking turns driving not only his Blue Skoal Racing Funny Car but teammate Ron Capps' Green car as well during a test outing at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

Johnson was doing double duty because he lives in the Indianapolis area and Capps resides in Carlsbad, Calif. The crew chiefs - Ed "The Ace" McCulloch (Green) and Rob Flynn (Blue) - were hoping to uncover ways to make their cars run quicker and faster. They'd also like to find out why their cars haven't won a round of NHRA Powerade Series competition in recent outings.

The day-long testing session came in hot, humid conditions, usually the weather pattern that is expected at the Pontiac Excitement Nationals, Friday through Sunday at National Raceway in nearby Kirkersville.

Johnson didn't mind the extra work because his race car showed definite signs of picking up the pace at the last race at Joliet, Ill., June 2. His elapsed times improved, dropping from a 5.016 to a 4.933, including a 4.995 during Saturday afternoon's hot session, after Flynn installed his engine/clutch combination. Flynn joined the Blue crew in late May.

"I like the direction we're heading," Johnson said. "If the car can keep improving like it did, we should have a real good race car in a race or two. Testing Monday should help us get ready for Columbus. We always expect it to be hot and humid when we race there."

Johnson and Capps complimented Goodyear on the new tire it put in use at Joliet. There was more side-by-side racing at that event than had been at any of the previous nine races this season.

"I think the tire made a big difference," added Johnson. "It seemed to be smoother."

There's something else Johnson's noticed, too. This will be the first time since 1994-95 that the former Top Fuel driver has driven in back-to-back races at National Trail. He ran a limited dragster schedule in 1996-98. He then made his Funny Car debut here in 1999, taking over the controls of Joe Gibbs' car at mid-season.

"Just a few years ago it seemed like I was just beginning my racing season about this time of the year," Johnson said. "So even though we aren't running as well as we'd like coming here, it's still a lot better than not being able to attend all the races. We finished strong in 1999 and I finished in the top 10 in points. There's no reason why we can't do better this year. I'd like to get into the winner's circle (he won once in two finals a year ago and has been a finalist twice in 2002) and get back into the top five."

Johnson is seventh after 10 of 23 NHRA Powerade Series races with 455 points. Capps is 10th, but only 24 points away at 431.

Capps, like Johnson, is still awaiting his first win of the campaign.

"I think we accomplished a lot at Joliet even though we didn't get a round win," said Capps. "I know it's just a matter of time before our Green Skoal Racing Funny Car will be winning rounds and races. I hope it's in Columbus."

-sr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , Tommy Johnson Jr.