Dallas: Capps/Johnson preview

Capps, Johnson seek performance improvements at Texas Motorplex ENNIS, Texas, Oct. 8, 2003 - Ask Ron Capps about memorable moments at the Texas Motorplex and he doesn't have to think back too far . . . just 12 month ago. "We made headlines...

Capps, Johnson seek performance improvements at Texas Motorplex

ENNIS, Texas, Oct. 8, 2003 - Ask Ron Capps about memorable moments at the Texas Motorplex and he doesn't have to think back too far . . . just 12 month ago.

"We made headlines there last year with the explosion, but we definitely don't want to repeat that this year," said Capps, driver of Don Prudhomme's Skoal Racing Green Camaro Funny Car. "We did have better times there - we won in May 1998 and qualified No. 1 in 1997."

Tommy Johnson Jr., Capps' Skoal Racing teammate and driver of the Blue Camaro, also picks last year's event as a memorable one, along with his runner-up finish in 1999.

Johnson was in the opposite lane when something broke in Capps' engine and it expired with a huge bang that destroyed the car's carbon fiber body, sending pieces flying. The chassis banged the guard wall, leaving Capps a bit dazed and with sore knees, but otherwise unhurt.

Capps and Johnson will be searching for round wins and, perhaps, their first final-round match when they return to the Motorplex for this weekend's O'Reilly Fall Nationals. They also will be driving safer racecars as the result of Capps' untoward incident.

Prudhomme and car builder Murf McKinney installed more protection around the driver's legs and feet in the 2003 Camaros.

"We made headlines with that explosion," Capps recalled, "and we added more safety features for our Skoal Racing racecars for Tommy and me. That was the worst explosion I've had since I began driving Funny Cars in 1997.

"We are excited to go to the Motorplex this year. Our new crew chief, Todd Okuhara, is doing a great job getting our car to run," continued Capps. "One of our problems has been lack of track time. We've run into a lot of rain at our races lately and have lost qualifying runs. We needed those runs to help Todd, who made big changes in the combination. Hopefully we'll get all four runs in and be ready to race Sunday."

Both Prudhomme cars have experienced traction trouble and neither crew has been able to consistently cure it.

Tire shake slowed Capps in Sunday's first-round pairing against Dean Skuza at Reading, Pa., and precipitated a loss, 4.888 seconds to 4.898 seconds.

Johnson's shake caused him to pedal the throttle a couple of times in an attempt to regain traction in his first-round race against Del Worsham. The car did take off after Worsham but ran out of track as Worsham crossed first, 5.172 seconds to 5.195.

"The tires still want to shake 1.2 seconds into the run," lamented Johnson. "The potential to run good is there, we just need to get consistency without the shake.

"I know what I want when we get to the Motorplex . . . four qualifying runs. Nothing has been in our favor lately because we haven't been able to figure things out because we keep losing runs to the rain. It's a great track and maybe with a little luck we can get our program back on track."

Johnson finished second at the Motorplex in 1999 and was a semifinalist last year.

Capps remained sixth in NHRA POWERade Series standings with 1030 points while Johnson slipped to ninth (954) in what has suddenly become a congested bottom half of the top 10.

Tim Wilkerson's win over Cruz Pedregon in Sunday's finale at Reading scrambled the field. Only three points separate Johnson from Wilkerson, who is now seventh. Gary Scelzi is eighth at 956 and Pedregon is 10th at 944.

Only two more events remain after this stop - at Las Vegas (October 26) and Pomona, Calif. (November 9).

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Del Worsham , Ron Capps , Gary Scelzi , Cruz Pedregon , Tim Wilkerson , Tommy Johnson Jr.