Ron Capps at Houston

BAYTOWN, Texas - Why does NHRA Funny Car driver Ron Capps remember the good points about racetracks, yet tend to file the not-so-good times away in a locked memory bank? It could be called a race driver's prerogative. Capps, for ...

BAYTOWN, Texas - Why does NHRA Funny Car driver Ron Capps remember the good points about racetracks, yet tend to file the not-so-good times away in a locked memory bank?

It could be called a race driver's prerogative. Capps, for example, easily recalls becoming the first Funny Car driver to exceed 315 mph at Houston Raceway Park in October 1997, and qualifying second, third and seventh for races over the last three years.

He prefers not to think about 1999 at all because there really isn't anything to remember.

He didn't qualify for either NHRA event at HRP. That, he says, is history. This is a new year and the results have already been better than last.

Capps, owner Don "The Snake" Prudhomme, crew chief Ed "Ace" McCulloch and his U.S. Tobacco Co. Camaro teammates are confident they will be contenders for this year's O'Reilly Nationals title when they make their first visit of the season, April 12-14 at HRP. And they have the performance to back up their beliefs. After Sunday's SummitRacing.com Nationals at Las Vegas, the fourth of 23 Winston Series events, Capps is fourth with 271 points. Funny Car leader Jerry Toliver has 338, followed by Tony Pedregon at 307 and nine-time champion John Force at 287. Capps also has two runner-up finishes, one more than he had in all of 1999, and has run his career-best elapsed time, 4.838 seconds.

He's also won seven rounds of racing in those four outings, something it took him 17 races to do a year ago.

"Last year was a real learning experience," says Capps. "We don't really need any extra challenges at each race, but we think we have something to prove at Houston Raceway Park. I like the Houston fans and the track, but our results there haven't been good lately.

"Ace has proved we can run real well at good tracks, like Houston," Capps continued. "We ran in the 4.80s at both Phoenix and Gainesville (Fla., where he was second to Force and Toliver respectively) when the track and atmospheric conditions were very good. Hopefully we'll have the same conditions this weekend."

Track conditions at the new Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last weekend were barely conducive to runs in the 4.90s, much less 4.80s.

For example, there were 10 runs in the 4.80s and 26 in the 4.90s over three days in Gainesville. Funny Car drivers dipped into the 4.90s nine times during the three days at Vegas. Capps came close with a 5.005 at 288.83 mph, good enough for the No. 6 qualifying spot. He beat Bruce Sarver in the opening round with a tire-smoking 5.506 at 277.43 mph but fell to Dean Skuza in the quarterfinals, 5.053 at 294.69 to 5.338 at 217.88.

"We just didn't have a good weekend," Capps said of his first Las Vegas race experience. "We had a lot of adversity - mechanical failures, our first fire of the season - and we didn't really get down the track once under power all the way.

"But I'm really very proud of my U.S. Tobacco Co. crew. They did a great job all weekend. They put the car back together after our fire (Friday night) and we ran the 5.005 on our first run Saturday.

"I don't know what happened to the car against Skuza," added Capps. "I had to pedal it early in the run and it picked up and started going down the track. Then the motor just quit, and I don't know why. Ace and the guys will have it figured out buy the time we get to Houston."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Tony Pedregon , Dean Skuza , Ron Capps , John Force , Jerry Toliver