Prudhomme Restructures Team

PRUDHOMME MAKES CHANGE; TODD OKUHARA, GARRY KENNEDY TAKE OVER COPENHAGEN RACING FUNNY CAR TEAM'S TOP SPOT With his NHRA Funny Car team mired in a season-long slump, Don Prudhomme released crew chief Roland Leong on Tuesday. ...

PRUDHOMME MAKES CHANGE; TODD OKUHARA, GARRY KENNEDY TAKE OVER COPENHAGEN RACING FUNNY CAR TEAM'S TOP SPOT

With his NHRA Funny Car team mired in a season-long slump, Don Prudhomme released crew chief Roland Leong on Tuesday.

"We are basically restructuring our Copenhagen Racing team," said Prudhomme. "I'm adding Garry Kennedy, who will work on the clutch and play a lead role with Todd Okuhara in running the race car. They will get input from Dale Armstrong and Bob Brooks."

Armstrong is crew chief on Prudhomme's Top Fuel dragster and Brooks is the team's clutch specialist.

Okuhara and Kennedy begin their new duties Friday (June 11) at the Pontiac Excitement Nationals at Columbus, Ohio.

Nine races into the season, driver Ron Capps has just one round win and is 15th in the standings. Ironically, a little more than two years ago, Leong - a longtime friend of Prudhomme's - replaced Tom Anderson as crew chief under similar circumstances. Capps had one round win in 1997 and was in 15th place after seven races.

Capps went on to win two races in three final rounds and finish fifth in the standings. Last year, he won five times in seven regular-season finals. He won the special Big Bud Shootout, worth $100,000, and was second at the Winston Invitational. In 46 races with Leong as crew chief, Capps won seven times in 10 Winston Series finals.

"We had a great year last year but for some reason we haven't been able to get things together this year," Prudhomme said. "We made a tremendous amount of test runs and I didn't think we were making the progress we needed. We've lost almost half the season, now we must look toward turning things around the rest of the way.

"Replacing Roland brought tears to my eyes," he added. "It was very, very tough. I love Roland."

Kennedy worked for Funny Car driver Tim Wilkerson in 1998, when Wilkerson enjoyed his best year, finishing second three times and placing seventh in points.

Okuhara has been with the Cope Racing Camaro team since 1998. He was Leong's assistant crew chief.

NEXT UP, PONTIAC EXCITEMENT NATIONALS

COLUMBUS, Ohio - When Ron Capps gets ready to make his first qualifying run Friday in the Pontiac Excitement Nationals at National Trail Raceway, something will be different.

"It will be hard to get in our Copenhagen Racing Camaro Funny Car and not see (former crew chief) Roland (Leong) in front of me," said Capps. "He taught me a lot about racing and how to win in the two years we were together. So I'll put all that in the back of my mind and go racing."

Prudhomme and Leong parted company Tuesday. Prudhomme added Gary Kennedy to the crew. He will be working with Todd Okuhara, Leong's former assistant crew chief, in tuning the car.

"We welcome Kennedy to the team," Capps added. "I worked with him in 1996 when I drove Roger Primm's Top Fuel dragster. I'm looking forward to working with him again."

Capps, who lost in the first round of last weekend's Route 66 Nationals near Chicago, goes into the 10th race of the year with just one round win. He's 15th with 293 points.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , Tim Wilkerson