INDIANAPOLIS, August 25, 2000 - As one who grew up a drag racing fan, Ron Capps has a feeling of reverence for the U.S. Nationals. To the veterans, whether spectators or competitors, it is NHRA's oldest, most prestigious event. Capps is one of...
INDIANAPOLIS, August 25, 2000 - As one who grew up a drag racing fan, Ron Capps has a feeling of reverence for the U.S. Nationals.
To the veterans, whether spectators or competitors, it is NHRA's oldest, most prestigious event.
Capps is one of those, and he hankers to join Don "The Snake" Prudhomme and Ed "Ace" McCulloch as winners of the coveted title. Prudhomme owns the U.S. Tobacco Co. Camaro Funny Car driven by Capps and McCulloch is the crew chief. Between them, Prudhomme (7) and McCulloch (6) have 13 victories at Indianapolis Raceway Park, once again the site of the 2000 U.S. Nationals, Sept. 1-4.
"Every driver will tell you the U.S. Nationals is one race win they want to have on their resume," Capps commented. "For me, it seems like there is so much history at the track. That race was the one you always read about or saw footage of on television."
While Capps, who is entered in his fifth Indy event (1995 in Top Fuel, 1997-2000 in Funny Car), is still looking for that first Labor Day victory, he has dominated Sunday's special Big Bud Shootout the last two years. And he has an opportunity on Sept. 3 to do what no other driver has done in the Shootout's previous 15 races, win three consecutive times.
"Winning the Shootout and the $100,000 first-place check twice was very, very cool," said Capps. "It was great to win the Shootout, but you want to be standing there with the U.S. Nationals trophy Monday afternoon.
"I think we have a good opportunity to win the race this year," he continued. "We've done real well there, obviously with the Shootout wins the last two years, and we've qualified well."
In his three previous U.S. Nationals Funny Car appearances, Capps qualified third twice (1997, 1999) and second once. He advanced to the semifinals in 1997, the quarterfinals the next year and was upset in the opening round last season.
McCulloch, in his first season tuning the U.S. Tobacco Co. Funny Car, is happy to be back at IRP.
"I've always looked forward to racing at Indy," he said. "It would be huge to be able to win this race another time."
McCulloch has decided to use the team's new chassis and Camaro body when qualifying begins Friday evening. "We tested the car at IRP Wednesday (Aug. 23) and it ran fine considering the weather and track conditions. We'll be ready to go."
They get three qualifying runs (one Friday, two Saturday) before the Shootout, which pits the eight Funny Car drivers earning the most qualifying points over the past 22 races. Capps, who finished sixth with 2935 points, meets third-place Jim Epler in the first round. Other pairings: John Force vs. Del Worsham, Whit Bazemore vs. Dean Skuza and Tony Pedregon vs. Jerry Toliver.
Only one other driver, Al Hofmann, has won back-to-back Shootout titles.
"Winning last year's Shootout was amazing," Capps recalled, "especially with what we went through. We had a fire in the first round that destroyed our Camaro body. The crew, with a lot of help from (Prudhomme's) Miller Lite Top Fuel team, did a great job getting the car back together to race. We had a lot of ups and downs that day and torched a couple racecar bodies too, but we always seemed to figure out a way to win."
That was the last time Capps was in the winner's circle. He is a four-time finalist this season and is fourth in Winston Series standings with 939 points - more than he collected in 23 1999 races.
He did pick off his second pole position of the 2000 campaign and sixth overall at Brainerd, Minn. (Aug. 20), setting the track record at 4.862 seconds. On race day, however, he lost a tire-smoking, second-round battle to Epler. Capps pedaled the throttle several times before the engine expired in a fireball. Epler won with a 6.394-second time to Capps' 7.015.
"That's history," Capps said. "Ace and the crew have worked hard to make sure we're going to run good at Indy."
U.S. Nationals Notes - Don Prudhomme has announced plans to build a 19,000-square foot race shop-office in Brownsburg, Ind., a few miles from IRP. The site will house both his U.S. Tobacco Co. Funny Car and Miller Lite Top Fuel teams. The teams have been based in Indianapolis for eight months during the season, spending the other four months at Prudhomme's Vista, Calif., shop . . . Capps has a 6-0 round wins record at IRP in the last two Sunday Bud Shootouts. Meanwhile, he's 1-2 during the same period in Monday's eliminations. . . Prudhomme won at Indy seven times as a driver (four in Funny Car, three in Top Fuel), the first coming in 1965. He also has one victory as a car owner. Larry Dixon, the Miller Lite dragster driver, won here in 1995, his rookie season . . . McCulloch has five Funny Car wins, the first in 1971, and one in Top Fuel (1992) on his IRP resume.