Skoal Racing Teammates look for better second-half performances; Johnson to drive special edition funny car. DENVER, July 15, 2002 - The National Hot Rod Association doesn't have an all-star race or anything akin to baseball's All-Star game ...
Skoal Racing Teammates look for better second-half performances; Johnson to drive special edition funny car.
DENVER, July 15, 2002 - The National Hot Rod Association doesn't have an all-star race or anything akin to baseball's All-Star game to signal the end of the first half of the season.
NHRA traditionally begins the final half of its Powerade Series - 11 of 23 events remain on the docket - with the grueling Western swing, three races in three weeks that gets underway at Bandimere Speedway, July 19-21. The tour continues at Seattle (July 26-28) before moving to Sonoma, Calif. (Aug. 2-4). There was, however, a 19-day break between the last event and the stop in the Denver area.
Skoal Racing teammates Ron Capps and Tommy Johnson Jr. took advantage of it by getting in a little vacation time. Capps went on a family camping outing to Lake Nacimiento, near Paso Robles, Calif., and Johnson vacationed in Cancun, Mexico.
Although both drivers were a long way from Bandimere Speedway - site of this weekend's Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals - racing was in their thoughts.
Johnson will be making his second 2002 appearance in the special edition paint scheme Skoal Racing Funny Car at the Mile-Highs. This will be the second of four races for the distinctive Camaro body.
"We really didn't give the fans a chance to get a good look at it in its first race," said Johnson, who failed to qualify for the SuperNationals at Englishtown, N.J., May 19, when the new look paint scheme debuted. "It's our goal to make it a 'special' winner's circle."
Capps, at the controls of his familiar Green Skoal Racing Camaro, will be attempting to maintain a two-race run that has seen him win at Columbus, Ohio (June 16) and advance to the semifinals at St. Louis (June 30).
"Racing in Denver is always tough because there's not as much oxygen in the air and we have to run the engines different than we do any place else this season," commented Capps. "You never know what's going to happen."
He was runner-up at this event in 1998, his best finish in five visits to these mile-high climes.
Johnson, meanwhile, advanced to the quarterfinals here last year, collecting his first Funny Car round win in the process. He was runner-up in Top Fuel in 1991. Don Prudhomme's Snake Racing teammates finished the first 12 races only 74 points apart. Capps is seventh at 610 and Johnson is ninth with 536. Neither driver was happy with his overall performance but each believes there are better days ahead.
Ron Capps . . .
Q - Was the car's performance in the last two races (a win at Columbus, Ohio and a semifinal finish at St. Louis) indicative of what you expect for the remainder of the season?
A - We are heading into what has been a good part of the schedule for us. We've done well at Seattle, Sonoma and Brainerd (Minn.), winning races at each track, and we're confident we can continue to have pretty good results at those tracks. We ended the first half of the season on a good note. Our crew knows what we're capable of and we aren't happy unless we're winning. We want to win.
Q - What do you want to accomplish during the second half?
A - We need to concentrate at every race and go rounds on race day. The drivers are bunched in the standings and we'd like to see some of them struggle a little bit so we can make up some ground on them. We were able to do that in the last two races. We know we have a big challenge on our hands and we're lucky because every one of us on this crew loves a challenge."
Q - What makes these three races in succession different from the others that are on the schedule?
A - They are extremely hard on the crews. The weather is usually hot in Denver - to go along with the lack of oxygen in the air - and it can be hot in Sonoma too. It's not only the back-to-back-to-back part but the conditions at all three tracks are going to be tricky.
Tommy Johnson . . .
Q - What does your crew hope to do to kick off the final half of the season?
A - We want to make sure we can run with everybody and do it consistently. We'd like to build some momentum during the upcoming three races so we are running well by the time we get to Indianapolis for the U.S. Nationals (Aug. 30-Sept. 2). We didn't do it last year and we learned from that. We'd like to get back into the top eight Big Bud Shootout contenders. (The Sept. 1 special event pays $100,000 to the winner with the field comprised of the eight drivers earning the most qualifying points through the 16th event this year.) I'm used to beginning the season halfway through the schedule. I did it in 1999 and 2000, before I joined the Skoal Racing team last year. If we can have the same kind of finish we had in '99 - two wins in four finals and 10th place in points - we'll be looking good.
Q - What has the addition of Rob Flynn done for the special edition Skoal Racing Funny Car crew?
A - We've only had Rob's tune-up in the car for three races and the performance is beginning to show promise. When we get consistency with Rob's tune-up it should run good. We've shown we are a competitive team and the car is capable of running with all the other Funny Cars out there.
Q - What were your first-half highlights?
A - That's easy . . . our two runner-up finishes in a row at Las Vegas and Houston. We were disappointed we didn't win either one of those races but it was good to be consistent enough to get to two straight finals.