VISTA, Calif., Friday, January 19, 2001 - Will drag racing legend Don "The Snake" Prudhomme be able to have twice as much fun by having two Skoal Racing Funny Cars to run in 2001? That's unanswerable right now because the season...
VISTA, Calif., Friday, January 19, 2001 - Will drag racing legend Don "The Snake" Prudhomme be able to have twice as much fun by having two Skoal Racing Funny Cars to run in 2001?
That's unanswerable right now because the season doesn't begin until February 1, but Prudhomme, crew chief Ed "The Ace" McCulloch and the crews on Ron Capps ' Skoal Racing Green team and Tommy Johnson Jr. 's Skoal Racing Blue team and the drivers believe it is possible.
Prudhomme is the latest to join the list of owners with two Funny Car teams. He didn't receive approval for the second car from U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. until late November. He then signed Johnson to a three-year contract.
Forty-two days after announcing Johnson's hiring, his new car was completed, eight new crewmen had been hired and the two teams were testing at Firebird Raceway in Chandler, Ariz.
Prudhomme and McCulloch were adamant about preparing identical tune-ups for both cars, and it was quite apparent they stuck to the game plan at Firebird. In three full-throttle runs, Capps averaged 4.88 seconds and Johnson 4.91. On Monday, Johnson ran 4.869 seconds at 312.64 mph and Capps followed a few minutes later with a 4.871 at 312.78 mph - just two thousandths of a second and 14-hundreds mph separating them.
Prudhomme's teams opted to test at Firebird last weekend instead of going to Tucson, Ariz. this weekend. They are working at the Vista, Calif. shop, getting Johnson's new Skoal Racing Blue team trailer ready for use at the Winternationals, Feb. 1-4, at Pomona, Calif.
Why did you want to expand to a two-car team?
Don Prudhomme : "We are going to be fighting a lot of two-car teams and we felt we needed to add another car to be competitive and that it would help us win the championship. Obviously there is more information available, more data, when you run two cars. I think it is an advantage having a two-car team."
Who made the decision to use identical tune-ups on the cars?
Prudhomme"Ed and I decided we weren't going to have a No. 1 team and a No. 2 team, that we'd have a Skoal Racing Green team and a Skoal Racing Blue team. Both cars are absolutely identical, from the chassis, to the engines, to everything. And they are going to race for it whenever they meet on race day. This is the way we elected to do it. I've seen it done different ways but we're going to have both teams working together.
How important is McCulloch in this new line-up?
Prudhomme"He is the catalyst in all of this as far as the setup of the cars goes. A lot of this two-car concept wouldn't have gone together if we didn't have Ace. He's a great leader, he does a great job with the teams, he did a heck of a job tuning the car and his leadership is one of the reasons we're doing this."
Were you pleased with the test results?
Prudhomme"I think it went really well. I couldn't believe how everything fell into place. It was faster than I've ever seen a team come together. Ed is the cornerstone. I'm pretty impressed with the way he has the teams working together. I don't get too excited about test results. It's our first big hurdle, shaking the cars down on the track, working as a smooth team. Now we must get ready for our second hurdle - going to Pomona. I think we have a big year in front of us."
Why do you want to run both cars exactly the same?
Ed McCulloch: "I think both cars need to be run the same. I think the way we intend to run the teams is going to be a real plus. You need to start the same, with all the same equipment, and try to the best of your ability to make them run the same. We're going to have twice much information."
How will you tune both cars?
McCulloch: "My role is just like it has been. I'm in charge, but I am going to rely heavily on Todd Okuhara and Tommy DeLago, who were my go-to guys last year. We hashed out what we were going to do, went out and set the car up and ran it. That won't change. We'll talk about what we're going to do, only this time when they go out, Todd will walk to the Skoal Racing Green team and Tommy D. will go to the Skoal Racing Blue team.
How do you feel about the test results?
McCulloch: "We probably did what I hoped we'd do - get all the guys working together and have the cars run as close as they were expected to run. The down side is that we didn't have any computer data on our first three runs. It's hard to tune and make changes when you don't have that data. But once we got it, we were able to turn the knobs and make the cars perform like they did. I am enthused about the two-car team. If it keeps going like it is, it will be an advantage and we'll learn from it."
Is a two-car team necessary to take the championship away from John Force?
Ron Capps: It really is. It's one of the tools you need to be a champion. You have to arm yourself with the right crew members, the right leaders and the right owner. That's what makes a championship-caliber team. We've added a second car for Tommy, who is one of the best drivers out there, because we are getting double the information. It's important to cull as much as you can about these cars."
What's it going to be like when you and Tommy race each other?
Capps: "We decided it was going to be best to set the cars up identical so we could learn from each run. That makes it better for Tommy and I, but when race day comes and we're up next to each other, we'll be racing heads up. It's a challenge for me going up there knowing the cars are identical and the different between winning and losing could be me, or it could be him. It's going to elevate my performance."
After driving partial seasons in 1999 and 2000, how does it feel to begin 2001 with job security?
Tommy Johnson<, Jr./b>: "Your confidence level is up, you aren't distracted by anything and you can concentrate on racing and winning. That's what we are here to do, concentrate on what we need to do to beat John Force and win the championship. Hopefully we can bring the two Skoal Racing cars home No. 1 and No. 2."
What's it going to be like when you and Ron race each other?
Johnson: "In all aspects, on and off the track, comparing racing notes or anything sponsor related, you couldn't ask for a better teammate. I think there's always going to be competitiveness between us. I think the competitiveness between the two teams should make us better. We will be racing inter-team. It will raise everyone's performance."
- Joe Sherk