Phoenix: Capps ready for return to Firebird

Capps did not expect to be among the non-qualified Funny Cars after three of the four Winternationals sessions (at Pomona, Calif., Feb. 1-4), but there he was at No. 17. All the anxiety vanished when he wheeled the Skoal Racing Green Camaro into...

Capps did not expect to be among the non-qualified Funny Cars after three of the four Winternationals sessions (at Pomona, Calif., Feb. 1-4), but there he was at No. 17. All the anxiety vanished when he wheeled the Skoal Racing Green Camaro into the No. 4 berth in the NHRA's quickest field. His 4.881-second run at 310.77 mph left him three positions behind teammate Tommy Johnson Jr., the top qualifier at 4.838 seconds. Capps was beaten in the quarterfinals and ranks seventh with 55 points, two places and three points behind Johnson.

Capps wasn't able to negotiate Pomona Raceway's tricky right lane quick enough in his second and third qualifying runs to push his way into the top 16. How different were the lanes? With Capps' and Johnson's cars using the same tune-up, Johnson registered his 4.838 in the left lane and, a short time later, Capps' car smoked the tires hard and he coasted through with an 11.84 at 68.51 mph in the right lane.

"We were confident going into Pomona," said Capps. "We thought we'd be able to put both cars in the program by running in the low 4.80s. We did that with one car but it took four runs to get the other one qualified. I said prior to the race that there were going to be some big names that wouldn't qualify at Pomona and, man, it almost was me."

Track History at Firebird Raceway:

Finished second twice: 2000 (to John Force), 1998 (to Chuck Etchells)
Qualified No. 1 last year (4.858 seconds)
Best elapsed time: 4.858 seconds
Top speed: 312.78 mph during 2001 preseason testing

Looking Ahead:

"I like to race at Firebird because it is one of the tracks where we've had some success with two runner-up finishes. We found out during testing there in January that the track is a lot better because there are longer concrete pads (from the starting line). Both my car and Tommy's car ran in the 4.80s. Coming off the race at Pomona where lane choice was so critical (the left lane was definitely the lane of choice), we know Firebird won't be a one-lane racetrack. That makes it better for the drivers.

"I feel like our team has some great racetrack data from testing. The track was well prepared during testing and it will be even better by the time the NHRA Safety Safari gets through preparing it. We are confident we can run better than we ran in testing. I wouldn't be surprised to see one of the Skoal Racing Camaros run a 4.70."

Comments on Prudhomme's Two-car Team:

"Every day has been a learning experience with our two-car team. It has proved to be a big asset from the get-go at Phoenix during testing. It was especially good at Pomona when we had the pressure of not being in the show going into our last run. Ace (crew chief Ed "The Ace" McCulloch) used the data from Tommy's run in our lane earlier in the day. That sure helped get our car down the track down because we knew what kind of power the track would hold. That was when you realize that having two cars is really a positive thing."

Looking Back at the Winternationals:

The unfortunate part about Capps' excellent qualifying run was that the engine's supercharger exploded at the finish line. Capps was unscathed but the crew needed to replace the Camaro body for Sunday's eliminations. "It was nail-biting time before the run," said Capps, "but the cool part was we knew it was going to pay off having two cars, and watching Tommy's Camaro go down the left lane earlier made me that much more sure. I was a nervous wreck waiting for that last session."

In his opening round match against John Lawson, Capps was ahead all the way but the difference dropped to one-thousandth of a second at the finish line. "The car shook the tires about half-track and I had to pedal (the throttle)," Capps said. "It took off again and it was close at the finish line." Capps won with a 5.118-second, 274.27 mph performance to Lawson's 5.114 at 280.49.

"I watched the replay on television and it was so close I thought Lawson won," he added.

Also Notable:

Two of Capps' rock and roll friends - Michael Anthony of Van Halen and Tommy Lee of Motley Crue - were his guests during Saturday qualifying at Pomona, as was Adam Carolla from the Comedy Channel's Love Line and the Man Show.

Ron Capps Facts:

Birthdate: 6/20/65
Career wins: 9 (eight Funny Car, one Top Fuel)
Final rounds: 20 (18 Funny Car, 2 Top Fuel)
Last win: 10/8/00 at Memphis
Last final round: 10/8/00 at Memphis
Best Funny Car elapsed time: 4.811 seconds ('00 Dallas)
Best Funny Car speed: 315.45 mph ('97 Houston)

- Snake Racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , John Force , Chuck Etchells , Tommy Lee , Michael An , Tommy Johnson Jr.