Reading2: Capps/Johnson preview

Skoal Racing Team hopes to avoid wet weather at Maple Grove READING, Pa., Oct. 2, 2003 - Wet conditions at three of the last four NHRA national events have created different challenges for Don Prudhomme's Skoal Racing Funny Car team. Foremost...

Skoal Racing Team hopes to avoid wet weather at Maple Grove

READING, Pa., Oct. 2, 2003 - Wet conditions at three of the last four NHRA national events have created different challenges for Don Prudhomme's Skoal Racing Funny Car team.

Foremost is the loss of qualifying runs to inclement weather. Those are critical to both Ron Capps and the Green Camaro crew and Tommy Johnson Jr.'s Blue Camaro crew.

Todd Okuhara, for example, has been Capps' crew chief for four races plus one qualifying run (at the Lucas Oil Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, Sept. 12). He needs all the track time available to work on his combination.

Capps and Okuhara only had two tries last weekend at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill., and they'll only get two attempts Saturday (11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.) when the POWERade Series returns to Maple Grove to complete what it started three weeks ago.

Okuhara, meanwhile, hasn't flinched. Capps qualified seventh at Indianapolis, fifth Memphis and 10th at Joliet under Okuhara's watch, and he won two rounds at Memphis - after going five races without a round win - and one at Joliet.

Furthermore, the Green crew chief dialed in a 4.816-second run into Capps' car on Saturday's last qualifying session and, as things turned out, it was needed because the 4.927 Capps ran in the opening session would not have kept him qualified.

"Once again Todd did a good job when qualifying was cut in half," Capps praised. "With the way the conditions were (cold and overcast), the pressure was on the crew chiefs, especially on the second run, and Todd made a veteran call."

"I know conditions at Reading will be like they were at Joliet - a very fast track and cool air. I'm very comfortable with the way the car is running and I'm confident we'll have no problem getting into the field Saturday."

Capps had traction trouble on his previous qualifying run at the Grove, coasting through in 11.329 seconds, leaving him 19th.

Johnson, meanwhile, is qualified, but barely. His 7.317-second time is not expected to remain among the top 16.

He was seventh at Joliet (4.796 seconds at 320.66 mph) but all that got him was a match race against his teammate that was won by Capps. Tire shake and smoke slowed Johnson to a 7.903 to Capps' 4.875.

"We've been having a lot of problem with the car shaking the tires a little over one second into the run," said Johnson. "It doesn't do it all the time. It runs good when the tune-up is on the money. When it's off a little bit, the tires shake.

"I'm sure Mike (Green, crew chief) will get it figured out," continued Johnson. "Every once in a while the car throws us a bone, but we need one on every run if we want to be competitive. It's all about making a run without tire shake."

Capps (999 points) and Johnson (931) remained sixth and seventh, respectively, in series standings. Three races ago, Johnson had crept to within seven of Capps, but two first-round setbacks by Johnson and three round wins from Capps, increased Capps' cushion.

Only three more races remain on the 2003 docket - Dallas (Oct. 12), Las Vegas (Oct. 26) and Pomona, Calif. (Nov. 9).

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Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , Tommy Johnson