Joliet II: Capps, Johnson preview

Capps, Johnson like weekend outlook: Cooler weather, return to Route 66 Raceway. JOLIET, Ill., Sept. 26, 2002 - A hint of fall in the air brings cooler temperatures. It is good weather for football games. It's also a time coveted by NHRA...

Capps, Johnson like weekend outlook: Cooler weather, return to Route 66 Raceway.

JOLIET, Ill., Sept. 26, 2002 - A hint of fall in the air brings cooler temperatures. It is good weather for football games. It's also a time coveted by NHRA POWERade Series drivers because it signals the end of the hot weather tune-ups and the return of quicker elapsed time and faster speeds.

"This is the time of the year we look forward to," said Ron Capps, driver of Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's Green Skoal Racing Funny Car, who is preparing for the Craftsman 75th Anniversary Nationals at Route 66 Raceway, Friday through Sunday.

"The Chicago-area track is definitely capable of producing some big numbers if the weather conditions are right, and they could be this weekend. We are excited to be racing there again. It's a great facility."

How good is the track? Top Fuel driver Kenny Bernstein made the sport's quickest quarter-mile run of 4.474 seconds in May 2001.

Capps knows he won't be able to go that quick - the track's Funny Car elapsed time record is 4.750 seconds - but he hopes to be in the chase for the race victory.

"We are coming to the end of the year and we aren't in the championship race so we're trying to get our tune-up ready for next year," Capps added. "Our recent performances in the Bud Shootout (a convincing victory in the special Funny Car event that was run at Indianapolis Sept. 1) and Reading (Pa.., where Capps again performed well) have shown we're going in the right direction."

Capps credits the hard work of crew chief Ed "Ace" McCulloch, assistant crew chief Todd Okuhara and the Green crew for the improvements.

"This is the time of the year when you'll see good results," Capps said. "I think we're capable of showing good results. We've had some bad luck at the last two races with parts breakage."

Capps' performance during last weekend's Mid-South Nationals in Memphis included a 4.958-second qualifying time that put him sixth overall. On race day, however, he was leading Dale Creasy Jr. when the engine's crankshaft broke, setting off a chain reaction of mechanical woes that caused the car to slow to a 4.967 at 278.98 at the finish line. That gave Creasy time to catch up and win with a 4.938.

The previous week, Capps was in a close semifinal race with Tony Pedregon when the idler pulley broke past half track.

Tommy Johnson Jr., Capps' teammate and driver of the Blue Skoal Racing Camaro, did advance to the quarterfinals at Memphis, beating Johnny Gray before losing to Del Worsham.

"There are just four races left this season . . . and I guess that's both good news and bad news," Johnson said. "It's bad because I like racing at least every two weeks. Heck, this race will be our third in three weeks and I'm not complaining. I live racing 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"The good news is that we have four more races to get at least one win this year. The Blue crew definitely wants to get one before the season ends, so it'll have to be either here, at Dallas (Oct. 13), Las Vegas (Oct. 27) or Pomona (Calif., Nov. 10).

"Chicago hasn't been one of my favorite tracks but we've been running decent lately so it's time we improve our performance there," Johnson continued. "We won't be racing at hot weather tracks again this year so Rob (Flynn, the crew chief) and the crew will have to step on the tune-up this time around."

Capps is seventh and Johnson ninth in the Funny Car standings and both could move up with good performances this weekend. Capps has 905 points and trails Scott Cannon by 45. Johnson has 861, 16 behind Dean Skuza and 44 behind Capps.

-snakeracing-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Kenny Bernstein , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , Dale Creasy Jr. , Johnny Gray , Tommy Johnson Jr.