Phoenix: Ron Capps final summary

CAPPS USES BRUT FORCE TO LAUNCH HIM INTO THE FINAL ROUND CHANDLER, Ariz. (Feb. 27, 2005) - Ron Capps used the Brut force in his Dodge Stratus Funny Car today to get him into the final round of the Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals today, as...


CHANDLER, Ariz. (Feb. 27, 2005) - Ron Capps used the Brut force in his Dodge Stratus Funny Car today to get him into the final round of the Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals today, as well as the brute force he literally employed in the second round against Robert Hight.

Ron Capps first disposed of Pomona winner Tommy Johnson Jr. in the first round of eliminations with a 4.813/317.87 to T.J.'s tire-smoking 5.953/160.35.

It was the second round that showed the true grit of a slightly grizzled, though young, veteran of the sport, when Capps out-pedaled rookie Robert Hight in a snorting, heart-pounding, twisting competition which resembled two bucking broncos vying for the eye of a hot mare at the other end of the quarter-mile.

When the smoke cleared, it was Capps' 10 years of experience behind the wheel of a nitromethane-powered race car that won out, as Capps crossed the line first with an 8.979-second pass at 226.77 mph, while Hight followed in his wake, posting a 9.817/107.41.

With that win, Capps moved into the semifinal and a match-up with Phil Burkart Jr. Capps took Burkart down easily, with a 4.860/316.60 victory against Burkart's 4.894/306.95.

Another, more formidable challenge was yet to come, as Capps found himself facing 13-time Funny Car champion John Force in the final round, and seeking his first Funny Car win since his last victory right here in Phoenix in 2003. Capps launched first at the light, with a stunning .060 reaction time to Force's .095. Capps was ahead at half-track, but Force ran him down for the triumph, collecting the win by a margin of .0196 of a second. The numbers: 4.802/324.12 for Force; 4.856/321.27 for Capps.

"I actually thought we won," said a disappointed Capps. "You are tucked back in that Dodge body so far that you can't see the guy next to you. Even in a close race you can't hear him, so I thought the light was burned out on the guardrail when I went through there. Then I saw John's light at the last second, it was on, so I knew it had to be a close race.

"It's a bummer. Ace and (co-crew chief Dan) Olson have been working real hard on trying to get the car to mile-an-hour a little better and just take it one run at a time. It finally reacted the way they wanted it to and it made a pretty good move out of the groove down there and it might have cost us a little bit. It was just one of those things.

"We were close. It was disappointing, but we wanted to get Brut and Dodge our first win, especially Brut. We're going to Helen of Troy (Brut's parent company) this week and to take a trophy up there would've been pretty neat. We made a lot of gain in POWERade points.

"Ace and I talked about having two weeks off, and after the Pomona problem two weeks ago with the split oil tank we didn't want two weeks of disappointment, so we're pretty happy. There's a lot of incentive going into Gainesville. Ace and Olson have got this hot rod running.

"There was a lot of adrenaline pumping today. All in all, putting a race on like that for the fans was pretty awesome. To come out on the losing end hurts a little bit, but it's OK. We made huge, huge gains."

The win against Hight, a new driver at John Force Racing, was certainly a highlight for Capps and the fans. "It just struck the tires right away to the point you know you're done, you're dead in the water, you're not going to be able to make up any ground striking the tires that early. And out of the corner of my eye I see Robert go up in smoke. I just couldn't get the tires going.

"I finally let off the throttle on one of the pedals and grabbed a whole lot of brake to try to stop the tires' inertia from turning. And I gave it a little bit of half throttle. It sounded like a pack full of ugly ducklings. It just sounded terrible. But it started accelerating and grabbing. And I saw him sashaying. I thought he hit the wall, to be honest. I was actually on the radio going across the finish line yelling, 'Yee-Hah.' My crew on the radio said it was kind of cool.

"Those kind of runs are fun when you're on the winning end."

Crew chief Ed "Ace" McCulloch was proud of his team and driver, but disappointed with the loss. "When you get to the final you're supposed to win," he said, "but I'm glad. We had a good day. Ron saved us in the second round when he pedaled it, got us by that. You're supposed to capitalize on that and go on and win.

"We're a new group. This is only our second race, and we're making progress and we'll get better.

"We just didn't run quick enough. Hindsight is 20-20. I know how to fix it. I know how to run better. We know what to do, if we could run it again. The only problem is that they (Force's team) probably would run better too.

For the record, this was Capps' 31st career final round (includes two in Top Fuel), his first final round since Englishtown 2003, and, of course, his first final-round appearance for Don Schumacher Racing.

Capps moves into fourth in Funny Car point standings, with 125.

Next up is the NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., March 18-20.


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Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , John Force , Don Schumacher , Robert Hight , Tommy Johnson Jr.