CAPPS REPEATS AT GATORNATIONALS GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 18, 2007) - Ron Capps repeated as the Funny Car winner of the ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals today, defeating Phil Burkart in the final round of eliminations. This marked the driver of the...
CAPPS REPEATS AT GATORNATIONALS
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 18, 2007) - Ron Capps repeated as the Funny Car winner of the ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals today, defeating Phil Burkart in the final round of eliminations.
This marked the driver of the Brut Revolution Dodge Charger R/T's first win of the 2007 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series season, the second straight at the Gatornationals, the 23rd of his career in 46 final rounds (22 national-event wins in Funny Car, one in Top Fuel) and, with Tony Schumacher's Top Fuel victory today, the sixth for Don Schumacher Racing at the Gatornationals.
In a race filled with drama, including cars hitting the wall on a questionable surface under cool conditions, Capps defeated Tony Bartone with a 4.787-second elapsed time at 326.08 mph in the opening stanza, then dismissed Tony Pedregon in the quarterfinal with a 4.885/322.58, and Kenny Bernstein in the semifinal round with another solid 4.857/322.58.
The final round saw Capps defeat Phil Burkart, who was making a cameo appearance at this event for team owner/crew chief Paul Smith. With a one-time sponsor on board, Burkart tore through the field, defeating Bob Gilbertson, Ashley Force and Jim Head to meet Capps in the money round.
Burkart launched first with a .093 reaction time (.000 is perfect). Capps responded with a .103, but it was Capps first at the finish line with another steady, straight pass down the quarter-mile to take the win with a 4.773/323.27 over Burkart's 4.876/316.75. Margin of victory: .0937 of a second.
"The car was on a string all day," said Capps in the winner's circle. "(Crew chief and four-time Funny Car winner here as a driver) Ed "Ace" McCulloch made this car unbelievable to drive today. It was treacherous and we saw a lot of people hitting the wall and just having a lot of problems. My Brut Revolution guys, I never doubt them. In Phoenix, the driver made a big mistake (his first-ever red light in the semis), and these guys told me I could go up there and make the same mistake here first round, and they'd be behind me. And that was huge for me. Because I needed some confidence, and they were right behind me."
As for facing Burkart in the final, who was driving a car with limited sponsorship and whose car Capps' brother Jon was testing here on Monday, Capps said, "I was thinking, if they beat us and I have to stand around and test all day and watch him testing that car, it was going to be a long night.
"This ranks up there with Indy (U.S. Nationals). I haven't won Indy yet, and last year I told you this was as big as it could ever get for me. And until we get an Indy win this will remain the biggest in my career, for sure. And to do it twice, I still can't believe it.
"A lot of cars were hitting the wall, a lot of Force's cars and those are good cars. And they were having a hard time getting down these lanes. My job was made so easy by Ace and all the Brut Revolution crew guys. This Brut Revolution Dodge was a dream to drive. It's one of those days where you almost let go of the wheel at times.
"And you watch the other guys all over the place and you're sitting there and in your head you're thinking, What am I going to do if it does this or that? Am I going to grab the brake?
"Final round I actually looked up at Ace and I thought to myself when they dropped the body, This is fun. I need to enjoy this and quit being so stressed about it, and it was just go up there, stage the car. In our sport the things are so quick and it's over, you don't enjoy what happened until afterward and you're coasting down with the 'chutes out, and it hits you.
"We hauled the mail every run. This is a great job."
Said McCulloch: "Well, it's always good to win. It's like we talked about early in the season, (about) the new points system. What do you do that's different? What my approach is, you don't do anything different. You go to every race and you try to win every race. And if that comes you'll be there. If that doesn't happen, you're out of here. Did the points structure change anything for us or our intentions? The only thing that we tried to do and we worked hard at it last year and over the winter is our qualifying position. We probably lost the championship two years ago just because we didn't qualify good enough during the year. We worked hard on it, and the last three races we qualified third, fourth, third, and it helps. It will be OK.
"Any time you win, I don't care if you're a driver or a crew chief or what have you - obviously the drivers do a hell of a job; they have to come in here and meet with all of you guys (media) and put up with all of this - but we win as a team and that's our whole approach. We win as a team and we lose as a team. Ron said earlier (about) what happened at Phoenix. When it was over, it was over, that's water behind us. We're off, we're running, everything will be fine. We're good to go."
Capps jumps into second in the Funny Car point standings and is just six points behind leader Robert Hight.
Next up is the O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals in Houston, Texas, March 30-April 1.