Memphis Funny Car notebook

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (626) 914-4761 PENNZOIL NATIONALS PRESENTED BY AUTOZONE FUNNY CAR NOTEBOOK *Cramming: Ron Capps switched from Top Fuel to Funny Car this season, and his adjustment to the shorter,...


Contact: NHRA Communications (626) 914-4761

PENNZOIL NATIONALS PRESENTED BY AUTOZONE FUNNY CAR NOTEBOOK *Cramming: Ron Capps switched from Top Fuel to Funny Car this season, and his adjustment to the shorter, more tempermental cars actually was accelerated by the problems the team encountered during the first seven races of the season. Capps failed to qualify for two of the first seven events and won just one round. The Copenhagen Chevrolet Camaro was plagued by tire shake so severe that a filling in Capps' tooth popped out. "I got three years of driving experience in six or seven months because the car was shaking so much and was so evil at the top end of the track," Capps said. "I had to pedal the car every run just to get it down the track. "That was one positive. I really learned to feel the car." That seat-of-the-pants input helped crew chief Roland Leong -- who replaced Tom Anderson in mid-May -- find a cure for tire shake. Victories followed at the Sears Craftsman Nationals in late June in Madison, Ill., and the Autolite Nationals in late July at Sonoma, Calif. *Second-half points: Here's how the NHRA Winston point standings would appear if points for only last seven races were counted: 1. John Force 593 2. Whit Bazemore 569 3. Ron Capps 526 "Too bad we didn't start the season the way we ran in the second half," Capps said with a laugh. *Looking good: John Force's lead over second-place Whit Bazemore grew to 194 points after winning the Pioneer Electronics Keystone Nationals in mid-September at Reading, Pa. It was Force's biggest gap since leading by 195 after the Sears Craftsman Nationals in late June at Madison, Ill. Bazemore lost to Cruz Pedregon in the quarterfinals at Reading in the Team Winston Ford Mustang. "In order for us to win the Winston championship now, Force will have to lose early, and we will have to win at least once," Bazemore said. "So, mathematically it's still possible, but I'd say it's a long shot at this point." Said Funny Car rival Chuck Etchells: "There's always a chance for Whit to catch him, but I think it's doubtful. It will be hard to make up more than a round a race on Force." Force won two of three races from mid-August to mid-September in the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, ending a 12-event drought. "Force is back," rival Ron Capps said. *The secret formula: It looks like John Force will win his seventh overall and fifth consecutive NHRA Winston Funny Car championship this season, so many of his rivals already are devising plans to unseat him next season. Easier said than done. But Ron Capps insists that heavy pressure could crack the armor of Force and crew chiefs Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly. "It's going to take hard running," Capps said. "You've got to run them on the edge. You have to go up there in the previous round and either beat his time, giving you lane choice, or run right with him and force Coil to tune that thing up. "You've got to push him." Only Cruz Pedregon has pushed Force over the brink this decade. Pedregon went on a memorable, late-season charge in 1992, winning five consecutive races to win the NHRA Winston championship as a rookie. *Performance prediction: There's no doubt that a Funny Car will record a four-second pass for the first time at Memphis Motorsports Park during this event, Ron Capps said. This event will take place in cool, autumn weather for the first time, as the first nine editions were held in balmy spring temperatures. The concrete launch pad at the facility recently was extended to 330 feet, 65 feet longer than before. The extra concrete will provide better traction and quicker times for the entire 1,320-foot racetrack. "I can't wait to go to Memphis," Capps said. "It's going to be great, especially with the new pad. For sure, there will be four-second runs." The Funny Car elapsed-time track record is 5.060 seconds, set by John Force in June 1996. *Schedule: Pro qualifying starts at 3 p.m. Oct. 3 and continues at 7 p.m. that evening. Qualifying ends with sessions at noon and 4 p.m. Oct. 4. Final eliminations start at 11 a.m. Oct. 5. Federal-Mogul competition starts at 10 a.m. Oct. 2. *Tickets: Tickets are available for the Pennzoil Nationals presented by AutoZone. Call Memphis Motorsports Park at (901) 358-7223 or (888) 82-SPEED. Tickets also are available at Ticketmaster outlets. *On TV: ESPN2 will televise two hours of same-day, final-round competition from the Pennzoil Nationals presented by AutoZone at 7:30 p.m. (CDT) Oct. 5. ESPN2 also will show two hours of live, Friday-evening qualifying at 7 p.m. (CDT) Oct. 3. *On the Web: The NHRA home page on the World Wide Web at offers more information about NHRA Winston Drag Racing, including qualifying and eliminations results, news, point standings, statistics and driver biographies.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Chuck Etchells , Cruz Pedregon , Tom Anderson , Austin Coil