Las Vegas: Capps, Johnson preview

Capps, Johnson go in search of more wins at Las Vegas. LAS VEGAS, March 31, 2003 - For the second time in as many visits to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Ron Capps will have something to talk about in addition to the NHRA POWERade...

Capps, Johnson go in search of more wins at Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS, March 31, 2003 - For the second time in as many visits to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Ron Capps will have something to talk about in addition to the NHRA POWERade Series event.

Meanwhile, Tommy Johnson Jr., his Skoal Racing teammate, will be happy to discuss his success at The Strip as he aims for a third consecutive final round appearance in the Nationals, April 4-6.

When Capps was here for the October race, he was recapping his flight aboard an Air Force Thunderbirds F-16 jet and becoming a member of the "9-G Club."

When Capps arrives this time he'll be relating stories of his test driving an International Race of Champions stock car with Winston Cup and sprint car drivers on the massive 21/2-mile Talladega Motor Speedway track in Talladega, Ala. This is the first time IROC personnel have permitted a straight-line drag racer to experiment with oval track, left-turn action.

"It should be fun," said Capps. "The speedway is awe-inspiring. I think all the drivers are going to help me. Danny Lasosky, a World of Outlaws sprint car driver, said he'd give me some pointers and I'm going to call Rusty Wallace, too.

"I'm sure all they'll say is just keep the throttle down and follow the guy ahead of you."

Capps plans to be in Alabama Tuesday and Wednesday, although he isn't scheduled to drive until Wednesday. "If they get all the cars out in time, I may get a chance on Tuesday. If not, I'll learn by watching them and be ready Wednesday," he commented.

Capps will likely be tutored by Cup drivers Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Jimmy Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Mark Martin on Wednesday. Tuesday's test lineup includes Indy Racing League drivers Sam Hornish Jr., Fillipe Giaffone and Helio Castroneves, plus Lasosky and fellow Outlaw driver Steve Kinser.

"It will be a good time," said Capps. "And then I go back to my real job.

"It's fun to do other things like IROC, but obviously my love is drag racing. It's what we do and what we love to do."

The driver of Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's Green Skoal Racing Camaro will be at the controls of a new, Murf McKinney-built Camaro for this event. Capps, who led the series after the second of three previous events, is second with 235 points, 11 behind Gary Densham and three in front of Tony Pedregon.

This race launches one of the toughest stages of the season, featuring a string of seven races in nine weeks, and could extend or extinguish the title hopes of some drivers.

"Championships may be won or lost, depending on how well a team does, during this part of the schedule," Capps pointed out. "We'll be racing three weekends in April and three in May. Before we know it, we're going to be deep into the season. I know as a driver, I'd rather drive every day if we could, but the crew members need time to prepare for each race and do the normal maintenance.

"Not racing for more than two weeks at time like we just did going from Gainesville to Las Vegas makes it hard to mentally get into what you do when you drive these cars," Capps continued.

"There's not a lot of testing done in drag racing like you would see in other motorsports where teams rent tracks and run around in circles. It's not that easy with our teams, so that makes it even tougher."

Capps and crew admittedly struggled in their last outing at Gainesville (March 14-16), qualifying on his last attempt but advancing to the quarterfinals before losing to Densham, the eventual race winner.

"When you win races, the points will come to you," Capps said. "The trick is to get through weekends when things aren't going so well. There was a chance we wouldn't qualify, but the team held together and pulled it out and we left second in points.

"The Vegas track has been good to our whole team," continued Capps, who won the October race here in 2001, "and Snake's birthday is usually around this time, too."

Johnson, driver of the Blue Skoal Racing Camaro, won this race in 2001 and lost a narrow decision to Densham last year. Larry Dixon, driver of Prudhomme's Miller Lite dragster, won both 2002 Top Fuel races here.

For the record, Prudhomme turns 62 on Sunday, April 6, the same day Johnson is 35.

"I do like going to Las Vegas," said Johnson. "This race has been good to me the last couple years. I should've won it last year but Densham beat me by about a foot or so. And not only are Prudhomme and I celebrating birthdays on Sunday, but my crew chief, Mike Green, has a birthday Monday.

"We've already been to The Strip this year, testing before the Winternationals in February. I hope that will be an advantage for us."

Johnson believes the Blue crew that began the season with several new members is on the verge of getting in sync.

"It will be nice to get into a rhythm and be able to build on some continuity," he said. "We've had flashes of brilliance in the first three races and we are starting to show we're turning things around. We've already run well. There's plenty of winning potential here. We just need to fine-tune it."

Johnson, ninth with 136 points, is looking forward to the busy two months ahead.

"We have a limited amount of time in our cars anyway, so when we don't get to race but once a month like we did in March, it really limits you," he remarked. "It's not that you lose track of what to do, but I don't think you are as sharp as you want to be."

Capps and Johnson return to the track for Nationals qualifying Friday at 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. and noon and 3 p.m. Saturday. Eliminations Sunday begin at 11 a.m.


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Series NHRA
Drivers Rusty Wallace , Larry Dixon , Tony Pedregon , Ron Capps , Kevin Harvick , Ryan Newman , Helio Castroneves , Gary Densham , Steve Kinser , Sam Hornish Jr. , Mark Martin , Tommy Johnson Jr.