Gainesville: Ron Capps Gatornationals report

Don Prudhomme's Skoal Racing Capps Beats Johnson In First Skoal Racing Battle Of Teammates In Opening Round Of Gatornationals GAINESVILLE, Fla., March 17, 2002 - A weekend full of drama for the Skoal Racing Funny Cars produced the first ...

Don Prudhomme's Skoal Racing
Capps Beats Johnson In First Skoal Racing Battle Of Teammates In Opening Round Of Gatornationals

GAINESVILLE, Fla., March 17, 2002 - A weekend full of drama for the Skoal Racing Funny Cars produced the first eliminations race between Ron Capps' Green Camaro and Tommy Johnson Jr.'s Blue Camaro and a nail-biting, last-qualifying-session run for the two to get into the 16-car program.

Capps, by virtue of out-qualifying Johnson by one position, had lane choice and got the victory over his teammate in the first round of Mac Tools Gatornationals competition Sunday at Gainesville Raceway. Capps advanced to the semifinals before tire smoke and a broken motor resulted in a loss to Gary Scelzi.

Capps and Johnson admitted their first head-to-head battle had special meaning. It took 27 races - 24 last year - for it to happen. Capps got the win - 4.966 seconds at 303.71 mph to a tire smoking 7.008 at 121.14 mph.

"I was more nervous before this race than I've been for a long time. It ranks right up there with some of the times I raced John Force in 1998," said Capps, who was the No. 8 qualifier. "I know how good his car can run because both our cars have the same tune-up. It was up to us to get the cars down the track. Our car ran good early in the run, but it dropped a couple cylinders near the finish line."

Johnson was the No. 9 qualifier and attributed his car's traction problems to losing lane choice.

"Ron's advantage was in lane choice, and that's what paid off," he said. "Both cars were set up identically. My car smoked the tires less than two seconds into the run. Everybody on the team said this wouldn't be different than any other race, but it was."

Capps went on to beat No. 1 qualifier Gary Densham in the quarterfinals, 5.018 at 303.98 mph to 5.120 at 286.92 mph, before falling short against Scelzi.

"Our car left good, but then it rattled the tires loose and I gave the throttle a quick pedal," recalled Capps. "Then I saw he was next to me, I pedaled it again and saw flames out of my fire windows. I decided to stay in the throttle to the finish line to see if I could catch him, but I couldn't."

Saturday afternoon, about 24 hours before Capps lost to Scelzi, he was 19th on the qualifying ladder and Johnson was 16th. Capps knocked Johnson out of the field with a 5.006 at 296.57 mph. But Johnson came back with a 5.021 at 191.82, good enough for ninth, one place behind Capps, thereby setting up the first-round pairing.

"Really, you'd settle for almost anything in that situation to get qualified," said Capps. "The time was going to come when Tommy and I had to race each other. We'd rather race each other in the final round, of course."

"I think if you'd asked us before the last qualifying session, we both would've said we'd do whatever it takes to get in there," Johnson commented. "If we have to race in the first round that would be fine. But now that we're both in, we're a little greedy and we're saying, 'oh, man, we don't want to race each other in the first round.'"

The event was held in unusually hot and humid (for this time of the year in northern Florida) temperatures and the results tightened the NHRA Powerade Series standings. Temperatures were in the high 80s all three days and the track was slick and tricky for all the Funny Car tuners.

Capps stayed in fourth place but now is only 51 points behind leader John Force (250-199). Del Worsham has 216 and Tony Pedregon, the Gatornationals winner, has 202. Johnson is ninth at 138.

Prudhomme's Miller Lite Top Fuel dragster, driven by Larry Dixon, won for the second time in three races this season, giving Prudhomme 30 victories as a car owner.

The next event is the Summitracing.com Nationals, April 5-7 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Qualifying: Capps, No. 8, 5.006 at 296.57 mph; Johnson, No. 9, 5.021 at 291.82 mph.
First round: Capps, 4.966 at 303.71 def. Johnson, 7.008 at 121.14.
Quarterfinals: Capps, 5.018 at 303.98 def. Gary Densham; Semifinals: Gary Scelzi def. Capps.
Pro Winners: Larry Dixon, Top Fuel; Tony Pedregon, Funny Car; Darrell Alderman, Pro Stock.

-dpsr-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Gary Densham , Don Prudhomme , Tommy Johnson Jr.