Dallas: Ron Capps hopes to be a contender

ENNIS, Texas, May 22, 2000 - While one of his 2000 drag racing goals has thus far gone unfulfilled - winning a race - Ron Capps remains a solid Funny Car championship contender based on consistent performances. Four final-round ...

ENNIS, Texas, May 22, 2000 - While one of his 2000 drag racing goals has thus far gone unfulfilled - winning a race - Ron Capps remains a solid Funny Car championship contender based on consistent performances.

Four final-round appearances and only one first-round setback in the first seven races have accounted for 528 points. Capps wasn't able to add to his total at Englishtown, N.J., Sunday because weather and safety concerns forced NHRA officials to postpone completion of the Spring SuperNationals until Sept. 8-9.

So the driver of Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's U.S. Tobacco Co. Camaro still trails leader Jerry Toliver (589) by 61 points and runner-up John Force (559) by 31 going into the O'Reilly Nationals, Friday through Sunday at the Texas Motorplex.

Crew chief Ed "Ace" McCulloch's tune-ups propelled Capps to his career-best time, 4.838 seconds, earlier in the campaign, and Capps is eagerly anticipating returning to the all-concrete Motorplex track. He won this race two years ago en route to a second-place finish in the final standings.

"It's going to be a whole new game at the Motorplex," Capps said Sunday. "Our trip to New Jersey was trying, but it was a learning experience with the track because we had cold, wet conditions. Ace won't have to worry about those things this weekend. We know what the atmospheric conditions will be and we know the track will be good.

"We've had some success at the track, too, so that's another reason we are looking forward to going back there."

In six previous outings at the Motorplex driving a Funny Car, Capps qualified first once, second once, fourth three times and 16th once. After a five-win season in 1998, Capps struggled last year, making just one final round, but he did get to the semifinals of the Fall Nationals in his last Motorplex visit in October. He's only lost in the first round once there - last May. "Even when we've had some trouble during qualifying, on Sunday Ace usually has the problems ironed out for the race," Capps commented. "This season has been a lot of fun, even though we haven't won a race.

"We're still working on the theory that the more times you get to the finals, the more chances you have to win," Capps added. "Then there's the one that says you can't win the race unless you get to the finals."

He didn't get the opportunity to get past the first round Sunday, thanks to the inclement weather in New Jersey. And Capps almost didn't make the 16-car field.

Rain limited teams to just two qualifying runs. Each came in unseasonably cold conditions, too. Capps' second run wasn't spectacular, but he was able to pedal the throttle and get down the track in 7.236 seconds at 264.96 mph. That put the U.S. Tobacco Co. team in 16th place.

"The weekend seemed to me to be a little like Christmas when you look at the Christmas tree and see the presents, but you can't open them," Capps said. "There we were sitting and waiting for conditions to improve so we could go down what was a very good racetrack. It was hard sitting around in the cold and rain."

Capps will race top qualifier Jim Epler (4.974 seconds) when the Spring SuperNationals event is completed in the fall.

First, obviously, come nine other races, including the O'Reilly Nationals and, next week, the Route 66 Nationals at Joliet, Ill.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Epler , Ron Capps , John Force , Jerry Toliver