Madison: Ron Capps preview

Capps, Green Skoal Racing crew focus on winning another race, this time at St. Louis. ST. LOUIS, June 24, 2002 - Is an NHRA national event victory like a magic elixir? "Yes, it's true what they say, that a win will cure almost ...

Capps, Green Skoal Racing crew focus on winning another race, this time at St. Louis.

ST. LOUIS, June 24, 2002 - Is an NHRA national event victory like a magic elixir?

"Yes, it's true what they say, that a win will cure almost anything," answered Ron Capps, who zapped a season-long winless streak like a mosquito encountering a backyard bug light when he won at Columbus, Ohio, on Father's Day.

"It was aggravating being in the kind of slump we were in," Capps added. "Winning that race was a huge morale boost for the Green Skoal Racing crew. It has been a really tough season for our team, including (teammate) Tommy (Johnson Jr.) and his Blue Skoal Racing crew."

Now it's up to Capps, crew chief Ed "The Ace" McCulloch and the crew to prove their National Trail Raceway performance earlier in the month was the harbinger of things to come. Capps and McCulloch definitely believe it is.

The first test comes in nearby Madison, Ill., during the Sears Craftsman Nationals, June 28-30. It's where Capps notched his first Funny Car win for team owner Don "The Snake" Prudhomme in 1997.

If there is one thing Capps and McCulloch are very aware of it's that the track is notoriously unpredictable. Capps followed his win with a semifinal finish, but, in the last three years, he's only qualified once (2000).

"It's a very demanding race because it's always hot and humid," he said. "It's hard for any track to hold up under that kind of heat and humidity. It's difficult to run consistently. It's a lot like the Columbus track."

Capps' 13th career victory and 12th for Prudhomme in Funny Car came in the 11th NHRA Powerade Series event in 2002. And, as the sponsor's name intimated, it was very exciting for Capps and his Green Skoal Racing crew.

Capps had to work hard for this decision, winning the semifinal and final rounds with two smoke-filled, throttle-pedaling quarter-mile runs. He beat Johnson in the semis and Bruce Sarver in the title round on the highly unpredictable National Trail Raceway asphalt. His winning times, 6.917 seconds against Johnson and 6.027 vs. Sarver, were a far cry from his qualifying best of 4.907 seconds.

Questions for Capps:

Q - What part did team owner Prudhomme play in the improved showing of not only your car but Johnson's as well?

A - One thing I've said all along is that Snake thinks about this team and how to make us better 99.9 percent of the time. He's always trying to find ways to improve. He couldn't make any changes because there really wasn't anyone available and he wasn't about to steal someone from another team. When we heard Rob Flynn was available - and his reputation speaks for itself - Snake hired him immediately to be the crew chief on Tommy's car.

Q - Were you surprised you had back-to-back tire-smoking runs against Johnson and Sarver?

A - It wasn't just our cars. Every car smoked the tires in the semifinals so track conditions obviously changed. Fans said it was just me responsible for those last two round wins, but if the crew hadn't put the car back together as well as they did, the engine wouldn't have lasted as long as it did through all the pedaling. Yes, it is fun to do that every once in a while because it does get things back in the driver's hands, but there are a lot of things that play into it now, including the new Goodyear tire we have.

Looking back, it was a lot of fun and I enjoy runs like that . . . when we can win them. Believe me, we'd rather kill them with performance than go out and do that. It's nice to be able to at least uphold my end of the bargain and be able to win rounds.

Q - What were your thoughts in the round against Johnson?

A - There was a lot of pressure on both sides of the Skoal Racing camp in addition to the bragging rights. On the run, my car went into severe tire shake and I pedaled it to get it going. The car didn't want any part of that. In between pedals I'm listening to see if I can hear Tommy's car. I'm hoping he smoked the tires, too, and is still behind me. The car was sideways and several times I saw each grandstand out the front window. I finally got some momentum going, and then the blower belt came off and I was coasting to the finish line. We were lucky to get the momentum going before the belt came off.

Interesting Statistic . . .

While the two Skoal Racing teammates have only faced each other twice in 35 races, their last encounter at Columbus marked the first time both cars advanced to the semifinals in the same event.

-sr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Ron Capps