CAPPS LOOKS TO FOLLOW IN "ACE'S" FOOTSTEPS AT U.S. NATIONALS CLERMONT, Ind. (Aug. 29, 2006) - Ron Capps has won 22 national events (21 in Funny Car) in his 12-year career as a professional driver in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, but has...
CAPPS LOOKS TO FOLLOW IN "ACE'S" FOOTSTEPS AT U.S. NATIONALS
CLERMONT, Ind. (Aug. 29, 2006) - Ron Capps has won 22 national events (21 in Funny Car) in his 12-year career as a professional driver in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, but has never won the U.S. Nationals. His crew chief Ed "Ace" McCulloch has also won 22 national events as a driver (18 in Funny Car). While neither has won a Funny Car championship, McCulloch is the winningest U.S. Nationals titlist, with six total victories (five in Funny Car.)
When Capps, McCulloch, now retired from competition, and the Brut Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car team arrive at this weekend's prestigious U.S. Nationals at O'Reilly Raceway Park, they'll be aiming for Capps' first win here and to get Capps back on top of the rankings after leading since the second event through the 15th. Two weekends ago, in Memphis, Capps relinquished the top spot to John Force, who now leads by 17 points. Their season goal, of course, is for both to share in earning their first Funny Car crown at year's end.
"Every year the big emphasis on the drivers, the teams and the sponsors is the U.S. Nationals and what winning this event would mean to them," says Capps, who also receives support from Knoll Gas-Torco Race Fuels. "It seems to be the most asked question.
"For me it's hard to answer that question. I've never won it. This race has so much history. It seems like you're here for the whole month. Everything happens in Indy; announcements are made, anything new debuts in Indy, and we're doing that this year with Brut.
"It's a huge race and until you've won it, you can only dream of what it would feel like. Ace has won it more times than anybody has. He gets a different look about him when it comes Friday in Indy. I can't explain what it is. He won't tell you how important it is, even though he's won it. He doesn't even try to explain how important it is. It's more of a feeling I get from being around him than him actually telling me.
"It's considered our Indy 500, our Daytona 500, and everybody compares it to whatever the biggest event in their sport is, and when you're involved in the Skoal Showdown, like we are, on Sunday and then having to race again on Monday, you feel like you need to go home and sleep for a week because it just mentally wears you out. And that tells you how big the race is."
Six races remain in the 2006 season, and Capps is ready to continue his year-long battle with 13-time champ Force to win his first championship. "We're less than a round behind Force," Capps explains. "This race is run during the day on Monday. We know the conditions will be humid and probably pretty warm. And I'm really not worried. Even though it's less than one round, I kind of look at it like the Daytona 500. We've led since the second lap (second race), we led most of the race, and pit stops have gone good and we backed off a little bit. Force is going to lead a lap, and we're going to come back around him and lead at the finish. The most important part is the lead when we get to Pomona (season finale). We just need to get our act together and get back on top."
Capps is a three-time winner of the Skoal Showdown, a $100,000 bonus event held at the U.S. Nationals featuring the eight quickest and most consistent Funny Car teams during the last season. He faces Eric Medlen in the first round. "I wasn't in it last year," Capps says, "and it was not a good feeling for me. I'm excited about just being in it, first of all. We ended up No. 6, so we don't have lane choice. Time and time again we've won races, not just rounds, without lane choice in pretty tough conditions. I don't think that is going to be a factor, but racing Medlen is a tough draw."