Englishtown: Capps, Camaro in semis

ELIMINATIONS FUNNY CAR: CAPPS ADVANCES TO SEMIS, SURVIVES ENGINE EXPLOSION; BAZEMORE, EPLER, POWELL OUT EARLY * RON CAPPS, U.S. TOBACCO CO. CAMARO Z28, advanced to the semifinals after defeating fellow Camaro drivers Jim Epler and Scotty ...



* RON CAPPS, U.S. TOBACCO CO. CAMARO Z28, advanced to the semifinals after defeating fellow Camaro drivers Jim Epler and Scotty Cannon. In the semifinals he squared off against Cruz Pedregon in a close race until Capps's Camaro exploded into a big fireball. Capps leaped out of the car and raised the Camaro body to diminish the fire damage. The body received minimal damage to the left front fender and Ron was treated for first-degree burns on both his calves -- the first burns he's suffered in his drag-racing career.

CAPPS: "We had the fire the round before; it kicked some rods out at the finish line. It wasn't a bad fire at all. We felt great having lane choice for the next round. We knew Cruz would be tough; he had Dale Armstrong (Jerry Toliver's crew chief) help those guys out. I saw Cruz come in and deep stage. He turned the top pre-stage light on. We left, we were kind of together, then I saw his car pop out ahead of me. We stayed that way for awhile. When our clutch started to lock up he started to pull away and there was a big explosion and a whole bunch of fire immediately and it just filled the whole cockpit up. It was the hottest fire I've had in my career so far. It had pushed some head gaskets out and the fire was directed at my feet. It burned my boots real bad and gave me first-degree burns on both of my legs. It's unfortunate, we felt really confident. That's part of the deal; that's why you can't take anyone lightly. We thought we could run a low 4.90. It looks like it put a cylinder out right before it exploded. That's the bad news; the good news is we passed Tony Pedregon in points; we're back in third place. Beating Epler in the first round was a huge round for us. We're trying to move this Camaro into second place. (John) Force is pretty much uncatchable at this point. We feel we can catch Jerry Toliver and make a run on him from here on out."

* WHIT BAZEMORE, KENDALL OIL/MATCO TOOLS CAMARO Z28, was ousted in the first round by his "employee," CRISTEN POWELL, driver of the BAZEMORE RACING NITROFISH CAMARO Z28. Whit had the best reaction time of that round: .495 to Cristen's .542. While Whit owns Cristen's car, Chuck Etchells owns Whit's.

BAZEMORE: "It feels worse to lose to that car than I expected it to. I think it might not feel as bad as normal, but it's probably worse. It's really frustrating because our Camaro was on a perfect run, but at mid-track it just blew the tires off, lost traction. So there's nothing we could do at that point." DID THE CAR GIVE ANY INDICATION? "When it happens that far down the track it's not going to warn you at all. It was perfect, going down the center of the groove. I drilled her at the starting line, got through the transition period where we normally have a little problem if we have a problem. I thought, OK we're looking good; we will run a .90 or something. It just yanked the tires off, smoked the tires bad." WHAT WERE YOU THINKING AT THE STARTING LINE KNOWING THE CAR YOU OWN IS IN THE OTHER LANE? "Same thing as normal. I hate my opponent, do everything I can do to beat him (or her) and just get really anti. I get really anti everything and I had to get more anti this time because I wanted to focus more. I didn't want it to appear that if I was late I was going to let that car win. I had a .495 light, which is good. I shallow staged in the middle of the afternoon. I feel pretty good with that. It's hard to cut a light this time of day because there's glare on the windshield and the sun is bright. We were not going to make any mistakes. We were not going to have that car not try to win. I hope the fans appreciate the fact that there were no games. That team's worked awfully hard with not a lot of resources, and the potential is there for that car to run really, really well. We will just see how they do." DID CRISTEN SAY ANYTHING TO YOU? "She said, sorry." WHAT DID YOU SAY TO HER? "I congratulated her." ON THE ETCHELLS TEAM EFFORT: "I really feel bad for this team because it's so up and down. We struggled at Indy. We were all ready to jump off a bridge (after just getting into the field, in 16th place). We run good in the second round and we go to the final. Going into the final and we were slightly euphoric. Then after the final we're not (after losing to Jim Epler). Then we come here and we run a 4.84 in the first run (of testing on Friday, quickest of the field). We're back to being euphoric. Then we struggled a little bit last night. Oh, well, OK, we're still pretty confident. And then there's today, and we're slumming again. Our emotions are dragging."

* CRISTEN POWELL, BAZEMORE RACING NITROFISH CAMARO Z28, defeated her "boss" Whit Bazemore in the first round when Bazemore's Camaro lost traction. Cristen won with a 5.088/282.13 pass to Whit's 5.555/242.50. In the second round, Cristen lost to Cruz Pedregon in a close race: 5.033/274.66 for Cristen, 5.026/308.14 for Cruz. Cristen endured an explosion at the finish line when the supercharger blew.

POWELL: THAT MUST HAVE BEEN EXCITING INSIDE THE CAR: "It was definitely. I was watching Cruz out of the corner of my eye; we were starting to creep up on him. It was as intense as it could be in the last 200 feet. It blew big; the nose of the Camaro body got banged up a bit from the explosion. It was quite a rush. It took me by surprise. I had my hands full stopping, had to pull the fire bottles and the parachutes. (After the run) Cruz came by and said, 'hey, you're really doing well.'" ON HAVING TO RUN WHIT IN THE FIRST ROUND: "It's a shame that I drew Whit in the first round. We were bummed. We knew that someone was going to lose. Since it's not a two-car team Whit said go up to the line ready to run heads-up. It's unfortunate for Whit. But he did kind of win today (as her team owner). Fortunately for us we were able to get past him. With Cruz it was revenge for last week when when we lost to him in the first round. Maybe Cruz has some kind of hex on us blowing up our stuff. The blower belt came off in the first round against Cruz (in Indy). But it's one more round than last week. If we keep that up we will win a race soon." WHAT WERE YOU FEELING WHEN YOU WERE RUNNING AGAINST WHIT? "No one is your friend in the other car, at least for those two minutes or however long. It was strange because I was wondering if beat the boss will I get in trouble? I just told myself he's going to be another racer out there. I'm sure he was thinking the same thing. I can tell by his driving style that he hated losing. He has a way of screeching around the corner when he's upset about losing. That's fair. I can totally understand that; you get so intense. He came over to the pit; he was really nice and praised us for doing so well. Last week he had a good weekend and now it's our turn."

* No. 1 qualifier and winner of the U.S. Nationals last week, JIM EPLER, in the WWF RACING 'BIG RED MACHINE' CAMARO Z28, lost in the first round to the 16th qualiifer, RON CAPPS, U.S. TOBACCO CO. CAMARO Z28. Ron had a relatively smooth run and crossed the finish line in 5.020 seconds at 304.12 mph, while Epler smoked the tires and slowed to a 8.338/105.10 pass.

EPLER: "It was a tough draw. I guess the main thing is that we made it to three final rounds in a row. I feel real confident about the races coming up. We found some things testing yesterday, which will really help us on the good tracks coming up. And the Camaro is going to be really fast on the good tracks. I'm really looking forward to the next race. We found some things in the fuel system. We couldn't use it here because of the track and air conditions. I think in Reading we will be able to do well. Obviously we're disappointed going out in the first round. We had a tough first round and we had it hopped up and it didn't stick. I think we know how to fix it." ON THE POINT STANDINGS: "We had an opportunity to be in third here, and obviously we made up some ground on Tony (Pedregon) because he's not here. Our goal coming into this thing was to end up in third. It looks like Capps might be third. We're still going to be fifth, but we will be very close to Tony."


1.    John Force, Mustang (8)                        1435
2.    Jerry Toliver, Camaro (2), Firebird (1)        1213
3.    Ron Capps, Camaro                              1076
4.    Tony Pedregon, Firebird (1)                    1040
5.    Jim Epler, Camaro (2)                          1015
6.    Whit Bazemore, Camaro (1)                      810


KURT JOHNSON, ACDELCO CAMARO Z28, the only Camaro in the 16-car Pro Stock field and the 16th qualifier from last May, was eliminated in the first round by Pro Stock points leader and No. 1 qualifier Jeg Coughlin Jr. Coughlin took the victory on a holeshot advantage with a 6.967-second elapsed time at 198.00 mph to Kurt's 6.964/199.58. Reaction times were similar, but Jeg had a slight edge: .464 for Kurt, .455 for Jeg.


1.    Jeg Coughlin Jr., Olds Cutlass (8)                1519
2.    Ron Krisher, Firebird (2)                         1138
3.    Kurt Johnson, Camaro (3)                          1117
4.    Warren Johnson, Firebird (1)                      1016
5.    Troy Coughlin, Olds Cutlass                       894

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Troy Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Jim Epler , Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Ron Krisher , Scotty Cannon , Cruz Pedregon , Jerry Toliver