DEFENDING GATEWAY FUNNY CAR CHAMP CAPPS RETURNS WITH 'ACE' BY HIS SIDE MADISON, Ill. (June 21, 2006) - Ron Capps, the driver of the Brut Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car and defending O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals event champion, is emotional about...
DEFENDING GATEWAY FUNNY CAR CHAMP CAPPS RETURNS WITH 'ACE' BY HIS SIDE
MADISON, Ill. (June 21, 2006) - Ron Capps, the driver of the Brut Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car and defending O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals event champion, is emotional about his return to this weekend's race at Gateway International Raceway.
It was here in 2005 where he won his first race since joining Don Schumacher Racing and he did it without his favorite sidekick, crew chief Ed "Ace" McCulloch in his pit. It was also his second career victory at this track, following his 1997 win here.
As the current NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car points leader, Capps is seeking his first Funny Car championship, and it looks like he's on a straight path to accomplishing that, notwithstanding second-in-points John Force breathing down his neck.
With Ed McCulloch back at his side, Capps is 106 points in front of the 13-time champion and has won five events so far in 2006, three more than the next highest winner, Tony Pedregon, with two. Force himself has won only once, and he joins Robert Hight, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Cruz Pedregon as single-time victors this season.
"It's awesome coming back to St. Louis," says Capps, who also receives support from Knoll Gas-Torco Race Fuels. "This is where I had my first win in a Funny Car back in 1997, and that was also the inaugural race for the new track that was built here. It's always been a place that I love coming back to."
"Last year Ace was under the knife in Indianapolis (for cancer surgery) and missed the race and our first win. We had our assistant crew chief Ronnie Thompson, who is now Morgan Lucas' crew chief, filling in and we ended up winning the race. It was a pretty emotional weekend."
"That was also the time that the Brut crew drenched me in the sponsor's product instead of champagne. It made for a very fragrant post-race press-room interview."
Because of the anticipated Midwest heat and humidity, this weekend's event will be held in late afternoon and evening. "I truly wish NHRA would have more night races," says Capps. "I think the fans love it. I think it's a great event for anybody to come to, whether it's their first drag race or they're a longtime drag-racing fan. Anytime you can watch a nitro car at night it makes for great TV, but it's also great in person, because you can see the flames so clearly."
"It's a very demanding race because it's the last of three in a row, and we're going to see some hot and humid weather conditions."
"It's a race you know you have to get through because you'll get a nice two-weekend breather. I can take time off with the family and go camping and stuff."
Qualifying well is key, but first you have to qualify. Despite Capps' dramatic attempts to make the field in the last two events (made it in field in final qualifying session in Chicago, and struggled to qualify No. 14 in Englishtown), he went to the quarterfinals in Chicago and claimed the event win in E'town.
"I've said time and time and again, if you're qualified for the Funny Car field for Sunday you have a shot at winning," says Capps. "And everyone of those guys in the top 16 Sunday morning are legitimate contenders to win that day. Everybody is so tough."
"We didn't qualify well (in E'town) and some people thought that maybe we might have been in trouble. I don't care how we qualify. It is what it is. Ace is very, very, very honest about going down the track. Looking back at Englishtown, we didn't qualify that well, but I had no problems at all going to bed Saturday night wondering if we had a good race car. I knew we were going to be more than ready."