Dallas: Capps Returns to Motorplex

ENNIS, Texas, Oct. 31, 2000 - When last seen in this area, Ron Capps, crew chief Ed "Ace" McCulloch and the U.S. Tobacco Co. Funny Car team were testing a new Camaro at the Texas Motorplex. The latest chassis from builder Murf McKinney carried...

ENNIS, Texas, Oct. 31, 2000 - When last seen in this area, Ron Capps, crew chief Ed "Ace" McCulloch and the U.S. Tobacco Co. Funny Car team were testing a new Camaro at the Texas Motorplex.

The latest chassis from builder Murf McKinney carried Capps on several half-and three-quarter-track runs that produced some excellent incremental numbers two days after the O'Reilly Fall Nationals NHRA race was postponed by rain (Oct. 21). McCulloch was so impressed he opted to use that racecar last weekend during the SuperNationals at Houston.

Capps will be in the same car when the Fall Nationals are completed Friday and Saturday at the Motorplex near Dallas. He would be happy to report the car took him to the winner's circle at Houston, but he can't. The team fought a balky on-board computer throughout qualifying and Capps wound up losing to Bob Gilbertson in the quarterfinals.

But not before he stunned Jim Epler in the opening round of eliminations with a 4.858-second, 310.20-mph quarter-mile blast. Until that run, which was third quickest of eliminations, Capps' best time had been 5.007 seconds.

"This car has a lot of potential," praised Capps. "It's a solid 4.80 (seconds) car. We're going to try and put it to the test at the Motorplex. It's exciting to be able to go back to Dallas with the way the car is running. We had tremendous numbers there when we tested last week."

McCulloch, meanwhile, didn't hesitate parking the team's other chassis, one that went to three straight finals, winning the third one at Memphis. "I liked this (new) car," he said. "People said we were consistent, winning races and going rounds with the other car, which was true, but I believe this car will be better. I think we need to know that and we need to know that now.

"We can't win the championship (John Force clinched his 10th title Sunday). Yes, we want to finish second but if we can learn something in the last three races that will put us farther ahead in getting ready for next year then we need to do it." Capps, currently second, did add a few more points to his lead over Jerry Toliver, 1420 to 1385, going to Dallas.

"Our focus in the last two races will be on staying ahead of Toliver and everyone else behind him," said Capps. "It's dangerous to pull out a new car when we're in the points chase for second, but that shows what kind of team we have. Everyone worked so hard putting the car together in just a few days at Dallas and Houston, then to have it run the 4.85 at 310 was awesome."

McCulloch's tuning during qualifying last weekend was hindered when the computer didn't work on three of the four runs. "It's hard enough to tune a new car while you're trying to learn what it will take and what it will won't when you have data to look at. But when you aren't getting data, you're really out of the ballpark."

He resorted to watching the car's runs, checking spark plugs, listening to Capps' input and various others methods used before computers debuted. And it worked in the first round.

In the quarterfinal, however, the car left the starting line hard before the tires began spinning. "Obviously the track couldn't hold the tune-up because the car struck the tires big time," Capps recalled. "It didn't give any warning, then Gilbertson came by me."

Gilbertson crossed the finish line in 4.997 seconds at 305.49 to Capps' 5.456 at 214.89.

"What Ace did tuning the car without a computer was amazing," said Capps. "He was at a major disadvantage."

The computer has been repaired and the U.S. Tobacco Co. crew is ready to go looking for more of those low elapsed times.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bob Gilbertson , Jim Epler , Ron Capps , John Force