CAPPS REFLECTS ON HIS SATURDAY NIGHT IN BRISTOL CARLSBAD, Calif. (March 25, 2009) - Ron Capps, the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Funny Car points leader, reflected on his stint in the Scotts Saturday Night Special charity event at...
CAPPS REFLECTS ON HIS SATURDAY NIGHT IN BRISTOL
CARLSBAD, Calif. (March 25, 2009) - Ron Capps, the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Funny Car points leader, reflected on his stint in the Scotts Saturday Night Special charity event at Bristol Motor Speedway last weekend and came to the conclusion that he had been duped by the big NASCAR stars.
Thinking he was going to enjoy a fun frolic on the half-mile banked oval during a charity event driving similarly-prepared Late Models among a group of racing and media celebrities, Capps soon realized, to no surprise, that every lap, every inch of a race in which celebrities and/or NASCAR legends compete is a cut-throat affair. Give them an invitation to drive for fun and they'll head to the wind tunnel.
Capps competed in a 15-lap heat intended to set the starting grid for the 35-lap feature in which retired NASCAR legends such as Cale Yarborough, Larry Pearson, Rusty Wallace, Junior Johnson, L. D. Ottinger, among others, including Capps' event partner, two-time Nationwide champion Jack Ingram, would race for the "big" Bristol Trophy.
The California native was driving a Late Model selected from the pit area of the local UARA event which was to compete that night following the charity race. The car was chosen based on color (to match the blue in Capps' sponsor NAPA AUTO PARTS' logo) and size of driver (Capps is 5'8"). Joey Bryant and his car fit the bill and Capps was set for an exciting run to benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Little did he know that, although the celebrities would set the feature grid based on their results in the heats, the legends would be racing all-out, specially-tuned race cars prepared especially for this event. NASCAR crew chief Ray Evernham and truck series racer Brad Dougherty took it one step further and drove state-of-the-art, wind-tunnel-tested Late Models in the celebrity heat against Capps.
With only two laps under his belt after delays because of practice crashes by his fellow NHRA racers Greg Anderson and Doug Herbert, Capps was to start second in single file. Moments later, on the grid, Evernham sped by to take the point while other positions shuffled, relegating Capps to the back of the four-car pack.
"I was supposed to start outside pole," said Capps, "and we rolled up there and Evernham pulls in front of everybody and that's where they let him start. And I ended up starting last. Well, Evernham ended up crashing the car, so I moved into third place.
"When the green flag dropped I stayed on the outside of Dougherty for about half a lap and when those guys got into high gear they checked out. They obviously had much better engines than I had. Joey told me they would. After a lap and a half I couldn't catch them. They were gone. So I did the best I could and pushed the car as hard as I could.
"Sure it's for charity, and it's for fun, but you should have seen the faces on some of these guys," added Capps with a smile. "I learned that Rusty Wallace actually took his car to the wind tunnel and spent all week testing and that Evernham's car came from Wallace.
"I always look forward to running these events for charity, and much like Tony Stewart's Prelude to the Dream I've run every year, in the first couple of years cars were assigned to us and were supposed to be pretty identical. After a couple of years of that, guys were off building their own cars and testing on off weekends. I guess that's just the nature of any competitor. Everybody wants to win.
"I was doing a NAPA appearance so I had little practice in the car. The goal was to make money for charity, but, I tell you, every time you put the helmet on you want to win. But one thing that is important to me, and it's my primary goal, is to bring these cars back to their owners in one piece. And we did that, and Joey got to race it again that night.
"Bristol is so incredible. The banking is so steep that the G forces are trying to throw you out of the bottom of the car. I think I know now what it was like to be a gladiator in the Roman days because you're in the stadium with 92,000 people screaming and yelling. And you could actually hear the crowd over the sound of the engine.
"Joey said he did pretty good in his race later that night in the same car, which I happily did not wreck for him. But his exhaust got knocked loose and after the race they had to take him in the ambulance to the emergency room because he had carbon monoxide poisoning. He was OK, thankfully.
"I can't wait to do this again. Gotta go reserve some wind tunnel time."