Houston Chevrolet semis notes

* RON CAPPS, U.S. TOBACCO CO. CAMARO Z28, lost his bid to win his second consecutive event title this weekend, as he was eliminated by BOB GILBERTSON, TRICK TANK/STEWART & STEVENSON CAMARO Z28, in the second round (4.997/305.49, .493 R/T to ...

* RON CAPPS, U.S. TOBACCO CO. CAMARO Z28, lost his bid to win his second consecutive event title this weekend, as he was eliminated by BOB GILBERTSON, TRICK TANK/STEWART & STEVENSON CAMARO Z28, in the second round (4.997/305.49, .493 R/T to 5.456/214.89, .496 R/T). In the first round, Capps ousted JIM EPLER, WWF RACING 'STONE COLD' CAMARO Z28 (4.858/310.20, .497 R/T to 4.973/279.90, .543 R/T).

Bob Gilbertson advanced to the semifinal round, where he lost to eventual event winner, John Force, who clinched his 10th Funny Car Winston Championship today (4.847/314.17, .500 R/T to 12.323/72.65, .492 R/T).

CAPPS: "It was actually running as good or better than our .85 in the first round. I think it just overpowered the track. We were the first pair out, and the sun came out of the clouds right before we started running. It's disappointing because the Camaro was going to run another .80. But you have got to look at the bright side. We gained another round on (Jerry) Toliver to hold on to second place (in championship points). We're off to Dallas, where the track is magnificent. We had some great testing there Monday and Tuesday. We have a new Camaro body and Murf McKinney chassis in the middle of the points chase. We're trying to stay up in points, but at the same time we are trying to put a new car together. So, to take it out in the middle of the points chase shows what kind of team you have to put this car together in a couple of days and run an .85 at 310 mph. Ace (crew chief Ed McCulloch) has been fighting all week. We didn't have computer readings on three of the four of the qualifying runs. Not only has he tried to learn about this new car but he didn't have any computer data. We talked about what I felt in the car and what the crew saw watching each round to try to learn what was going on. The first round was just awesome. I was a little nervous, but you have to have faith in each other. I have the utmost faith in Ace. It's a drag we didn't go any more rounds, but we accomplished our goals for the weekend."

ON RUNNING GILBERTSON: "Paul Smith, his crew chief, is dangerous anywhere. When you get a handle on it Paul Smith is one of the best crew chiefs there is to get down marginal tracks. He showed that he could go down a good track here. It got him lane choice against Force, which wasn't that bad a run. It was unfortunate because we were on our way to another 4.80. Maybe that's the reason it didn't make it because we were trying to run a 4.80."

ON THE POINTS CHASE: "It's exciting to have this points chase with Toliver. Force has wrapped the championship up. It's exciting to have something to shoot for up to the end of the year. You can't count out Tony (Pedregon) and (Jim) Epler either. We have to keep our focus and not give up anything points-wise."

ARE YOU GOING TO KEEP THE CAMARO PAINTED LIKE THE STEALTH BOMBER? "I sure like it. The guys really like it. We had a sticker party. We were slapping Chevy bowties, U.S. Tobacco Co. stickers with the whole team. They basically built this Camaro and painted it and stickered it. It was kind of their baby and the guys really like the it. They named it the Stealth Bomber. "We will see what Snake (team owner Don Prudhomme) says, but the crew likes it. Snake always likes the operation to be first-class. If he wants it painted, we will paint it. What's funny is that you would think a painted, slick nose would make for quicker mile-per-hour, but we went our fastest mph, 310, or close to our fastest, with the primer paint. It didn't hinder our performance at all. We will see what Snake has to say, but we sure like it."

EPLER: ON RACING RON CAPPS IN THE FIRST ROUND: "That was a win-win (for Chevrolet). I was trying to help my teammate (Jerry Toliver, chasing Capps for second place in Winston Championship) and myself. We were not going to run an .85. My hat's off to those guys; they did a great job. We didn't run what we were supposed to run. We're just going to have to do better the next time and not get paired up with Ron Capps in the first round. We seem to meet him in the first round too many times. He's tough; it's a great team."

ON THAT RUN: "We had a 4.97, but it lost fuel pressure. We went our career-best to half-track, 253 mph, and then it lost about half the fuel pressure and I shut off early because it was going to burn up. The same thing happened in the second round in Memphis. We're trying to find out what's going on. I think the Camaro could run a whole lot better because the early numbers are so good. We have to find out why it's burning up sometimes and not other times."

* On the other side of the ladder, WHIT BAZEMORE, KENDALL OIL/MATCO TOOLS CAMARO Z28, advanced to the semifinals after eliminating Tommy Johnson Jr. (4.946/311.77, .551 R/T to 5.515/25.91, .480 R/T), and PHIL BURKART, TEAM GERONIMO CAMARO Z28 (4.940/312.35, .526 R/T to 15.099/77.65, .520 R/T), to face Tony Pedregon in the semifinal. It was side-by-side action until Whit's Camaro lost traction at 600 feet, slowing Whit to a 5.075-second pass at 273.50 mph (.531 R/T) to Tony's 4.922/309.91, .506 R/T.

BAZEMORE: "We ended up having a good day, sort of, but it's frustrating to lose like that because it basically comes down to downforce and the Camaro is a great car. But the truth is that this Camaro body is a year and a half old and has not been developed since we debuted it at Denver in '99. It just doesn't have the downforce that the Mustang has. That's what caught up to us today. (John) Force ran an .84 right in front of us in the same lane. We were running an .88 or so and smoked the tires at the top end. Part of that is clutch, there's no question, but part of that is downforce. We know the numbers between the Firebird and the Camaro, so it's probably safe to assume that given the money that was spent on the Mustang and the effort they made that the Mustang is pretty good. The numbers are pretty good in downforce. The Kendall/Matco Camaro team really did a good job today to win rounds. They did an excellent job. It's a well-known fact that I'm going over to the Schumacher team next year. I think Terry Manzer (crew chief) and the people here are top notch. I'm going to miss working with them."

ON THE RUN AGAINST TONY PEDREGON: "I never saw Tony. I was shallow-staged and I saw him the last round just take a big chunk and then he took another chunk before the tree came on so I'm sure he was deep because he normally is and the numbers probably reflect that. But I never saw him. I was feeling good that we made it through the tough part. Terry wanted me to be in the left side of the groove, just barely in the left side of the groove and the car went right, so I really had to bring it back quick because at the end of the pad there was nothing on the right side of the groove. The track was really terrible over there. I brought it back, I thought to myself, OK, I'm right where I need to be. I glanced over and I didn't see Tony. I'm thinking, OK, we made it through the tough part, we're home free, provided the thing keeps running. And then it gets to half-track and gets off the concrete and blows the tires off down-track. It's really frustrating because we wanted to win this one for Matco Tools (the event and team sponsor), and ourselves."

* CRISTEN POWELL, BAZEMORE RACING'S NITROFISH CAMARO Z28, had the misfortune of having to face John Force in the first round. It was a good race, as Cristen posted a 4.971-second lap at 274.00 mph, with a .525 reaction time, but it wasn't good enough to beat the newly-crowned champion's 4.847/313.00, .510 R/T.

POWELL: "A .97 was an awesome run. I even clicked it off early; it was out of shape. He had already won. We knew the car ran really well. But to beat his .84 would have been pretty impressive. We're excited the Camaro ran well and we all did our jobs. How cool it would have been to beat Force. If I lose it's expected, but if he loses it's a real big deal. It's a big one for me. It was kind of a win-win situation almost, but not really."

WHAT'S NEXT? "We're going to do Dallas and Pomona. Unfortunately, we don't have anything for next year and Whit is not happy about that because I think Whit realizes my potential and he wants to take me under his wing. He's going to try to help us any way he can. If we don't have a sponsor we're not going to go racing. We're going to remain forever hopeful that a deal will come around."


1.  John Force, Mustang (9)                           1756
2.  Ron Capps, Camaro (1)                             1420
3.  Jerry Toliver, Firebird (1), Camaro (2)           1385
4.  Tony Pedregon, Mustang (2)                        1314
5.  Jim Epler, Camaro (2)                             1178
6tx].  Whit Bazemore, Camaro (1)                         1023

* KURT JOHNSON, ACDELCO CAMARO Z28, faced his dad Warren in the semifinal round, after defeating Larry Morgan and RICKIE SMITH, BUCKS COUNTY KAWASAKI CAMARO Z28. As you would expect, it was a tight, neck-to-neck battle to the finish line, with the victory going to Warren by a margin of seven thousandths of a second. Warren: 6.912/200.00, .456 R/T. Kurt: 6.913/199.85, .462 R/T. This was an important round for both, as each driver gained points on Ron Krisher, who fell to fourth place in the point standings after losing in the second round, as Warren took over third. The contest for second place behind Winston Champion Jeg Coughlin now comes down to the father-son team, who are only 19 points apart. Don't count out Krisher either just yet, as he is just 30 points behind Warren.

KURT: "Actually, my weekend has been pretty good. We've got a good race car right now, and to go to the semifinals near the end of the season, we can't complain. But we need to win the next two to hold onto that number two spot."

WAS IT THE LANE? "It's hard to say. these cars are always on a fine line. I ran a .90 the run before, slowed down to a .91 -- that's one hundredth of a second -- but it went left, and to keep it from going left any more I had to pull second gear a little early to get the thing under control, and that cost me six thousandths right there from the previous run, so six thousandths there and probably just a little more after that and that was the race. You know these cars don't make perfect runs every run. You try as best as you can to make perfect runs...I lost by seven thousandths; it was a good drag race."


1.  Jeg Coughlin Jr., Olds Cutlass (10)                 1858
2.  Kurt Johnson, Camaro (4)                            1373
3.  Warren Johnson, Firebird (2)                        1354
4.  Ron Krisher, Firebird (2)                           1324
5.  Mark Pawuk, Firebird (1)                            1106

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Bob Gilbertson , Jim Epler , Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Ron Krisher , Larry Morgan , Don Prudhomme , Jerry Toliver , Paul Smith , Tommy Johnson Jr.