CAPPS HOPES RETURN TO DALLAS IS CURE FOR HIS EARLY SEASON SLUMP ENNIS, Texas -- After three first round losses and one dreaded DNQ to start the 1999 NHRA season, Ron Capps is holding tight to thoughts of much happier days. Like a memorable...
CAPPS HOPES RETURN TO DALLAS IS CURE FOR HIS EARLY SEASON SLUMP
ENNIS, Texas -- After three first round losses and one dreaded DNQ to start the 1999 NHRA season, Ron Capps is holding tight to thoughts of much happier days. Like a memorable trip to Dallas in the spring of 1998. As good times go, that was one of the best for the 33-year-old Funny Car driver from San Diego.
As Capps heads back to Dallas for the third annual Castrol Nationals presented by O'Reilly Auto Parts, April 22-25 at the Texas Motorplex, he hopes those thoughts will prevail and erase the bad memories that he's collected in the first four events of the season. The $1.5 million race is the fifth of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.
"Whenever you're struggling, good times stand out," Capps said. "Just like when you hear one of your favorite songs on the radio, it reminds you of good times. When I think of Dallas, I think about beating John Force in his big day. He unveiled his Elvis car that day and the race was sponsored by Castrol. We rained on his parade that day and went on to have a lot of success after that. It was one of those weekends where you felt like you really earned it."
Capps drove his Don Prudhomme-owned Copenhagen Chevrolet Camaro to the win that day, defeating Force in a lopsided final round. Capps blazed the all-concrete surface to a 4.960 second, 292.39 mph final round, while Force's Castrol Mustang lost traction and ran 6.463 at 146.93 in the losing effort.
That was one of the key victories in giving Capps enough momentum to challenge Force for the Winston championship. Although he came up a few points short at the end of the season, Capps became a contender with five victories in seven final rounds.
As his Copenhagen team heads to the Motorplex this April, he's looking to get some of that magic back. His 1999 season has started with first round losses at Pomona, Calif., Phoenix and Gainesville, Fla. He failed to qualify at the O'Reilly Nationals in Houston. He says a trip to Dallas may be just what the doctor ordered.
"I've had success at some different tracks, but it seems like there's a couple of tracks that you do well at throughout your career," Capps said. "Dallas has been like that for us. It's a great track and I love the people there. We need to turn this thing around, and I think a good showing at Dallas could go a long way toward that goal."
Capps says his team's early season struggles have been tough to take, but it's all part of a bigger plan. It's the old 'take one step back to move forward' philosophy. Capps says chief tuner Roland Leong is getting closer to the combination that he's looking for.
"The true fans know what's going on," Capps said. "They know we're having to do what's necessary to run with Force. We're not going to be content with running mid- to high-4.80s. We're going to have to run 4.70s to compete. We're not out here for second or third, we're out here to be the Winston champion. Our fans, sponsors and peers are behind us 100 percent. We all know that we may struggle a little bit trying to find the tune-up, but for the long run that's what we've got to do. It's a long season. When you're chasing the Winston championship, you have to make sacrifices. That's what we're doing right now."
Capps says the goal is a consistent car that will produce 4.70-second trips down the racetrack.
"We ran some 4.80s last year and it got us second place," Capps said. "We can't settle for second place. We know Force is going to run 4.70s. He did it at Phoenix, Gainesville and Houston. He's going to do it at the Motorplex too. We're going to have to run 4.75 to beat him. That's just the way it is. We realize that and that's what we're trying to accomplish."
A look at the numbers will reveal the Copenhagen team is still a little bit away from their desired performance. Capps' season best is a 5.000 (Phoenix), but he's ran as quick as 4.84 in testing. Force, on the other hand, has pulled away from the pack with a record-setting 4.788 second elapsed time and incredible record speed of 324.05 mph.
While there was plenty of parity last year in Funny Car, Capps says Force's team has raised the bar yet again. He says the competition is going to have to step up another level to stay in the game.
"A lot of guys are running good enough to win a race, but Force is still in a class by himself right now," Capps said. "With the exception of the last two years, Force was clinching the championship by Topeka. That's not right. As a class we have to put more pressure on him and I think Austin (Coil, Force's crew chief) is able to back the car down a little and keep it consistent. I know that sounds scary, but when they don't have any pressure they can afford to do that. We're at the head of that group and we definitely haven't put any pressure on him. We have a plan, but we have to be able to step it up here pretty soon."
He says there's no better place than the Texas Motorplex.
"One thing about this group of tracks at the beginning of the year, there's no excuses," Capps said. "They've all been really fast and the Motorplex will be no exception. The crew chiefs lick their chops when we go to Dallas because they know they can throw everything at it. As a driver you better be prepared to hang on because the car is probably going to be lifting the front-end at half-track. It's going to be fast."