Indianapolis: Capps reaches semifinals

INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 4, 2000 - Ron Capps and the U.S. Tobacco Co. Funny Car battled their way to the U.S. Nationals semifinals Monday at Raceway Park before encountering a fuel system problem and a setback to Jim Epler. One day earlier, Epler...

INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 4, 2000 - Ron Capps and the U.S. Tobacco Co. Funny Car battled their way to the U.S. Nationals semifinals Monday at Raceway Park before encountering a fuel system problem and a setback to Jim Epler.

One day earlier, Epler ended Capps' hopes of winning a third straight Bud Shootout special event title in the first round.

With Ed "Ace" McCulloch doing the tuning, Capps grabbed the No. 3 qualifying position with a 4.968-second, 300.53-mph effort. McCulloch fought with a faulty fuel shutoff switch on two separate qualifying attempts but found the solution to the problem on race day.

Capps won his opening round against Bob Gilbertson with a 4.997 at 301.47, then followed with the quickest run of eliminations, 4.903 at 304.49 to sideline Bruce Sarver.

That win set up the Epler rematch. Capps left the starting line first but the slide valve on the fuel system stuck and Epler won with a 4.923 to Capps' 5.058.

"We definitely thought we'd run better in that last round," said a dejected Capps. "We thought we might be going to the finals again. We are definitely happy with our new car. We had a problem with the fuel shutoff closing on its own on a couple runs. It took Ace and the crew a while to figure out what was happening, but they did.

"We thought we had a chance to win this race. I think that's what the other 15 Funny Car drivers were thinking, too," added Capps.

In the Shootout, which paid $100,000 to winner John Force Sunday, the fuel shutoff began closing prematurely and the best Capps could do was 5.732 to Epler's 5.053.

"That was a huge disappointment," Capps said. "We felt pretty good about our chances in the first round. We were ahead of him when it happened. The (incremental) times were exactly like ours from Saturday (when Capps posted his weekend-best 4.968 at 300.53), so it could've run another (4.) 96."

There isn't much time before the U.S. Tobacco Co. team is back in action. The rain-delayed Matco Tools Spring Supernationals will be completed Saturday in Englishtown, N.J. Capps qualified 16th and meets Epler in the first round.

U.S. Nationals - Qualified: No. 3, 4.968 seconds at 300.53 mph. First round: Capps, 4.997 at 301.47 def. Bob Gilbertson; Quarterfinal: Capps, 4.903 at 304.39 def. Bruce Sarver; Semifinal - Jim Epler def. Capps

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Bob Gilbertson , Jim Epler , Ron Capps , John Force