Richmond Ron Capps has put the "fun" back in Funny Car

DINWIDDIE, Va. - Ron Capps and the U.S. Tobacco Co. Camaro crew have put the fun back in Funny Car racing this season. After a disastrous 1999 NHRA Winston Series - one Capps calls an "aberration" - Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's team, with...

DINWIDDIE, Va. - Ron Capps and the U.S. Tobacco Co. Camaro crew have put the fun back in Funny Car racing this season. After a disastrous 1999 NHRA Winston Series - one Capps calls an "aberration" - Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's team, with Ed "Ace" McCulloch calling the shots as crew chief, is winning rounds of racing and is once again a championship contender. With five of 23 races completed, Capps is third in points with 342, trails runner-up Tony Pedregon by 37 and leader Jerry Toliver by 93. Capps has already been runner-up at Phoenix and Gainesville, Fla., has nine round wins and recorded his quickest Funny Car time, 4.838 seconds, in 2000. In drag racing, like most competitive things, winning equals fun. Losing doesn't. That's why Capps and Company want to keep the good times rolling when the Moto1.net Nationals unfold at Virginia Motorsports Park, near Richmond, April 28-30. "We've come close to winning, having been to those two final rounds," said Capps. "We know why we lost them and how to fix that. We've had a lot of chances, and we kind of stumbled on a few of them. We've looked back and said, 'Boy we really had a chance to make a move in points.' But for us, to be able to say that only five races into the season, we really couldn't ask for more, except to be in the points lead." McCulloch, meanwhile, continues his Funny Car tuning education. He joined the team for the final 1999 race after spending the previous five years working on a Top Fuel dragster. Then NHRA introduced its 90-percent nitromethane fuel rule this year and all tune-ups needed to be revised. "Ace is very methodical in the way he runs the car," Capps commented. "He's very organized, and if he wants to try something new, he has a good baseline he can go back to. Everything he does is well thought out. He bounces ideas between himself and (assistant crew chief) Todd (Okuhara). "The more runs Ace gets under his belt in Funny Car, the better he's going to be. I'm very impressed by what he's done so far." McCulloch, ever cautious, says, "If the track and weather conditions are OK, we should be able to run pretty good." The former driver - he won 22 NHRA events, 18 in Funny Car during his career - doesn't mind the beginning of the busiest part of the 2000 schedule. The Moto1.net Nationals kick off a set of five races in six weeks. "I'd race every week if it was in the cards," said McCulloch. "I think we do better when we're racing all the time. We seem to stay more focused. If you have a lot of trouble during a schedule like that, then you can dig yourself into a big hole in a hurry. We want to go out there, go down the racetracks and do OK." "I know the crucial part of the season is coming up where conditions will be warmer and track conditions will be slippery," Capps said. "I think Ace is going to excel in those conditions. We proved in 1998 (when he won five times and battled John Force for the championship before finishing second) that to the win the title you have to be consistent through the summer months. I think that's what we're going to do this year. Capps won his first Funny Car round at VMP and experienced his only wall-banger at the same time, in 1997. The car's left front suspension broke on the run and when Capps took his foot off the throttle, the car turned left into the barrier. He was unhurt and the car was repairable. That, ironically, was his only round win at this event. "We'll be trying to change that statistic this year," Capps added. k

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Ron Capps , John Force , Jerry Toliver