RON CAPPS TALKS ABOUT HIS ELDORA EXPERIENCE JOLIET, Ill. (June 8, 2007) - More accustomed to blasting down the quarter-mile at 330 mph in under five seconds, Ron Capps demonstrated his non-drag-racing expertise by mixing it up on the dirt with...
RON CAPPS TALKS ABOUT HIS ELDORA EXPERIENCE
JOLIET, Ill. (June 8, 2007) - More accustomed to blasting down the quarter-mile at 330 mph in under five seconds, Ron Capps demonstrated his non-drag-racing expertise by mixing it up on the dirt with NASCAR and other oval-racing stars on Eldora Speedway's half-mile clay oval last Wednesday in the NEXTEL Prelude to The Dream charity race.
In front of an HBO Pay-Per-View audience watching live, Capps drove the Brian Ruhlman-owned Full Throttle Late Model Stock Car against a star-studded field of 24 other drivers, including Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Juan Pablo Montoya and Cruz Pedregon.
The driver of the Brut "Test Drive" Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car at this weekend's Torco Racing Fuels NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway qualified in the top 10. With an inversion system, Capps landed on the front row for the first qualifying heat. With lots of action in front and behind him, including Bill Elliott spinning and Jeff Gordon scraping the wall, Capps restarted fifth after a short caution. Fifth place would have transferred him into the top 11 of the A-main. He held onto that spot until the final lap, when Elliott, with whom he'd had a spirited battle, passed him then proceeded to flip over in a crash with Ryan Newman at the finish.
Taking sixth place, Capps earned pole position for the B-main, or consolation race, with fellow NHRA Funny Car racer Pedregon beside him. In drag-racing jargon Capps red-lighted, as he pulled away from the field prematurely, jumping the start. That was a no-no, and the field was stopped and regrouped for a new beginning. Legally this time, Capps took off with a strong lead until lap 6 of 12, when he bobbled slightly allowing the field to catch up. By lap 8 he was fourth. A yellow flew when Pedregon and Montoya got together and another caution flag came out when Ray Evernham spun on lap 10. Capps ended up fourth behind Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Dave Blaney.
With that finish, Capps was gridded 19th for the A-main feature, Pedregon 24th in a backup car. But, after only two laps, the highly-anticipated 30-lap feature event was over for Capps, as his car stopped on the track with a mechanical problem, bringing out a yellow flag. Carl Edwards went on to win this third-annual event. Capps was listed as 24th finisher.
We asked Capps about his Eldora experience at an event whose proceeds benefited the Victory Junction Gang Camp and the Tony Stewart Foundation:
Q. You beat household names such as Kevin Harvick and Juan Montoya and did a good job holding off a hard-charging Bill Elliott for a while. How did that feel?
A. I knew the talent in my heat was like a Who's Who and I knew that those guys would be coming. It's kind of like drag racing, you don't know the conditions of the track, how they groomed the track in between. I just tried to hang on in each heat. The car was not as good in the second heat as it was earlier in the night. It was real loose and I had to get through that heat without spinning and wrecking, which we did.
Every year when I come back to this race it blows me away to be able to race with those guys and, not just that, to be in the relaxed atmosphere with them. It takes a lot of the pressure off, but at the same time, I have to remember that I'm racing Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart and Juan Montoya, some of the best drivers in the world. It's always good to finish and then go to the paddock and see the guys who were behind you. That means you didn't finish last.
Q. You have been invited to all three Preludes by track owner Tony Stewart. How important is the event to you?
A. It means a lot. The invitation alone means more than anything to me personally, and the trust that Tony Stewart has in me to race with those guys. It isn't just a celebrity race in stock cars, these are full-fledged Late Models that are going to be racing in one of their biggest races of the year this coming weekend, called The Dream. This Prelude to The Dream is like one of these guys coming over and jumping into an NHRA Pro Stock car. It's a pretty stout deal. The amount of faith Tony has to put a drag racer in it not knowing what experience I have, is in itself a huge compliment.
Q. Did you feel you had to prove that drag racers are racers like anyone else on any surface?
A. I kind of always feel that way. When you go there you always feel you have to prove something. But I really honestly just wanted to have a good showing every year. Every time I go do something away from drag racing, I try to represent NHRA in a very good light. I want people to know that a lot of drag racers can do more than just go straight.
Q. Will you do this again?
A. Yeah, absolutely, if Tony keeps calling every year.
Q. Without mirrors on the car, how did you avoid crashing?
A. That was the other thing that was funny. Montoya, J.J. Yeley and Jeff Gordon were talking about that exact thing. Ryan Newman got into Bill Elliott and that was a pretty bad-looking crash, and the reason was these guys didn't have spotters like they're used to and the cars don't have mirrors on them. So, you have to remember what kind of car you're in, and how big the car is around you, so it was a big adjustment. I've gotten used to it, but I might have an advantage because in Funny Car I have a guy in front of me backing me up, and we don't have rearview mirrors or even a back window on our Brut Dodge charger body.
Q. How did the NASCAR drivers treat you?
A. Every year it's been great and the best part is, a lot of these guys often talk about the NHRA race they watched the last weekend on ESPN2. How much they know about our sport is huge. Everyone treated us really good.
Q. How was it racing against Cruz Pedregon?
A. I was really proud of how he did. It was one of the first times he's been in a Late Model, and he did a great job to represent our sport. In the B-main we were both in the front row and it was cool. I looked over and gave him a little hand-wave signal and later on he told me that that was the coolest thing in the world.
Q. Are you now more eager than ever to compete in other series?
A. Yeah, I always am. But I have to start to be more choosy about what I do. To be honest with you, I watch things like lawn-mower races on ESPN2 and I want to get in one. It's a bad habit, I think, and I need to pick and choose my rides, because we have a championship to focus on in NHRA, and you can get hurt so easily in some of these things.
Q. How does team owner Don Schumacher feel about your detour to the Prelude before this weekend's race in Joliet?
A. Unfortunately, he didn't get to see the show on HBO, but of course he knew I was doing it. He read a report on NHRA.com the next morning and it didn't sound very good from what was posted. Don had a party on Thursday night at his house for all the sponsors, employees and friends, and he found out what really happened and he was much happier.
Q. What else did you want to add?
A. I'm really bummed at the way that we finished. I've been used to such a good finish the last two years and I was disappointed. It's been kind of eating at me last couple of days, that's how badly I wanted to do well. The bottom line is it was a fun event, and a great deal for me to be involved in helping Kyle Petty's Victory Junction Gang and the Tony Stewart Foundation. It was well worth it.