Las Vegas II: Skoal Racing preview

LAS VEGAS, Oct. 20, 2003 - Ron Capps and Tommy Johnson Jr. enjoy visiting Las Vegas on business. Each says he's been lucky there - and they aren't talking about the gaming establishments and their myriad slot machines, roulette wheels or poker ...

LAS VEGAS, Oct. 20, 2003 - Ron Capps and Tommy Johnson Jr. enjoy visiting Las Vegas on business. Each says he's been lucky there - and they aren't talking about the gaming establishments and their myriad slot machines, roulette wheels or poker tables.

Capps and Johnson do their business a few miles north of glitter gulch at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, site of the third annual ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals, Oct. 24-26.

Capps and Johnson drive Funny Cars for Don Prudhomme's Skoal Racing team and they know about winning races on the track's 1320-foot racing surface.

Johnson hit the jackpot first in April 2001, winning his first race as the driver of the Blue Camaro just two days before his and his boss' birthday (they share April 6 births, Prudhomme in 1941, Johnson in 1968). Johnson also had his first date with Top Fuel driver Melanie Troxel that weekend, and the two will be married December 31.

An acrophobic, Johnson remembers riding the Stratosphere Hotel's "Big Shot" roller coaster (approximately 900 feet high) on his first date with Melanie.

"Now that ride was pretty scary," he said, "and I didn't think I'd ever want to do that again. But if we win the race I'll be happy to take that ride once more."

Johnson visited the finals again in April 2002, losing to Gary Densham.

Capps and his Green Camaro gave Prudhomme's team a sweep of the 2001 events when he won the inaugural October race and last year became a member of the Air Force Thunderbirds' 9-G Club, thanks to a ride in one of the Thunderbirds' F-16 jets prior to the race.

A race win by either Skoal Racing Camaro would be as welcome as a Royal Flush in a poker game.

With only the Auto Club Finals (Nov. 6-9) remaining on the 2003 NHRA POWERade schedule, the Blue and Green crews are on victory patrol. Capps' win at Phoenix in February provided the team's only winner's circle visit thus far. He also was runner-up at Englishtown, N.J., and Memphis.

"Vegas has been good to both of us," said Capps. "The Green crew is fighting to win a race but, at the same time, we are building toward 2004. Todd Okuhara (crew chief) is doing a great job.

"Unfortunately the results don't show the progress we're making. We did make some changes and tested at Dallas (Oct. 13) with promising results," added Capps.

Johnson, runner-up at Chicago race in May, also was very happy with the test results.

"It was the best run we've made in the last couple months," he said. "It was smooth with absolutely no shake at all. Every run lately has been shaking at 1.2 seconds. If the car will run like that at Vegas, I can't wait to get there and go racing."

Capps and Johnson qualified 11th and 12th at Dallas (Texas Motorplex in Ennis) - and turned in identical elapsed times of 4.947 seconds. Capps got the higher position due to faster speed. Both drivers lost in the first round. Capps remained sixth in points with 1062 while Johnson slipped to 10th with 986. He's only 76 behind Capps - four rounds of racing - and 27 behind No. 7 Gary Scelzi.

Funny Car qualifying times Friday are 3:30 and 6:30 p.m., with Saturday sessions set for 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Sunday eliminations get underway at 11 a.m.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , Gary Scelzi , Gary Densham , Don Prudhomme , Tommy Johnson Jr.