MORRISON, Colo. (July 12, 2004) - Walk from the staging lanes to the pit area at Bandimere Speedway and even the most well conditioned athlete would be winded. Not that it's a long jaunt, but at nearly 6,000 feet above sea level up a long flight...
MORRISON, Colo. (July 12, 2004) - Walk from the staging lanes to the pit area at Bandimere Speedway and even the most well conditioned athlete would be winded. Not that it's a long jaunt, but at nearly 6,000 feet above sea level up a long flight of stairs causes one to become short of breath. That's racing at Denver's picturesque Bandimere Speedway. The thin air affects everyone, not just the race cars.
"You start to realize the altitude when you walk from the parking lot to the pits," Ron Capps said. "The first time, you don't think about the altitude until you walk up stairs to the pits and feel winded. Then, you realize where you're at. The engines struggle to make horsepower, and I am amazed by the crew chiefs for making the performance they're able to make. For them to make that power in the thin air tells you how talented these tuners are."
Making 8,000 horsepower from the supercharged, nitromethane burning engines isn't an issue at sea level, but Bandimere Speedway lists its altitude at 5,860 feet. Creating 8,000 horsepower that far above sea level presents a much bigger challenge to the crew chiefs that call the shots on these 300-mph race cars.
"The first run on Friday afternoon is usually at a time of day when the air isn't very good," Capps said. "We come from St. Louis where we ran in the 4.80s to Denver where the first pass will be a 5.20 or 5.30 right off the trailer. It seems like it takes forever to get to the finish line. You don't know if something is wrong with the motor and you want to lift because it feels like you're going too slow.
"When you first warm the car up on Friday afternoon, you can tell something is different by the way it sounds. You try to be a smart driver and listen to the engine when the car is going down the race track. It sounds and performs differently. It's all about adapting at Denver. The team that adapts the best has the most success. The crew chiefs have the biggest problem to make horsepower with all the changes to the motor. As a driver, you have to stay hydrated because the thin air and heat can sneak up on you."
Capps happens to be one of the more fit drivers on the circuit, so dealing with the mile-high conditions and warm summer temperatures won't be a problem for him. Since veteran tuner Roland Leong joined the green Skoal Racing crew in late May, the car has improved its consistency and posted its best finish of the season three weeks ago in St. Louis. With the experience of Capps and Leong, the rest of the Funny Car class might be in for some early afternoons on Sunday.
"It's only been a few races for Roland (Leong) and nobody expects miracles," Capps said. "In Roland's fourth race, we made it to the semifinals where we had a mechanical problem against (John) Force. We're making gigantic steps towards moving our Skoal Racing Monte Carlo up in the points standings. Our crew hasn't gone rounds in a while. So, we all had to get adjusted to that. As a driver you have to get into the mode of getting psyched up and acclimated to doing what you should be doing and that's going and winning rounds on Sunday."