Ron Capps Ready for Houston

BAYTOWN, Texas - The metamorphosis is virtually complete. Now Ron Capps and crew chief Roland Leong believe the Copenhagen Racing Camaro is ready to move from pretender to bona fide NHRA Funny Car championship contender. They ...

BAYTOWN, Texas - The metamorphosis is virtually complete. Now Ron Capps and crew chief Roland Leong believe the Copenhagen Racing Camaro is ready to move from pretender to bona fide NHRA Funny Car championship contender. They would've preferred it happen two months ago, but this transformation took time and testing. There were several new parts, all critical to the tune-up, which needed fine-tuning so the car could reach its potential. Now, after three Winston Series events and a lot of test runs, Leong is anxious to go racing and turn practice into reality. He'll get his chance at the O'Reilly Nationals, April 9-11, at Houston Raceway Park. Assimilated into the tune-up since the beginning of the season are new cylinder heads, a new injector and a five-disc clutch - the latest innovation that helps produce lower elapsed times and faster speeds. "We tested for two days (after the last race) at Gainesville (Fla.)," Capps said. "We had some problems getting the engine to run on all eight cylinders, but everything starting coming together. On Tuesday (the second day), I had one run to half-track that had very good numbers. "We came back and Roland told me to run it to the finish line to see what the new combination would do. The car left the starting line hard and ran well. I clicked it a little early and it still ran 4.84 (seconds) at 306 (mph)." The time is noteworthy because it is the quickest in Capps' two-plus years driving the Don "The Snake" Prudhomme-owned Cope Racing Camaro. His series best is 4.864 seconds. "The new combination looks very promising," Capps added. "It's completely different than the one Roland ran since 1997. It's like starting all over again, but we weren't going to be content running in the mid-to-high 4.80s (seconds) this year because we knew it would take low 4.80s and high 4.70s to be a (championship-contending) player. It feels good to take that step forward." Capps discovered he's going to need a different driving style to match the new combination. "This is a whole new animal to drive," he said. "It picks up the front end at half-track. I'm going to have my hands full. And I'm really looking forward to it." Last year Capps consistently qualified among the top four. This season he's been fifth, ninth and 10th. He didn't get into the 16-car field until his final qualifying attempt for the Gatornationals at Gainesville. "Our backs were against the wall," Capps recalled. "We were having trouble with tire shake and Roland told me to get ready to pedal (the throttle) if I felt any shake on our last run. I felt it start to shake and gave it a chance to clear up, but then I gave a quick pedal and the car responded." His 5.013-second time at 304.87 mph left him 10th. In his first-round match against Frank Pedregon, a faulty fuel system prevented Capps from challenging for the win. "I stepped on the pedal and the car didn't go anywhere," he said. "That was unfortunate, but maybe we'll get all of our bad luck out of the way early in the season." Capps enters the O'Reilly Nationals in 13th place with 98 points. John Force, winner of the last two races, is first with 332. "It's early in the season," Capps noted. "There are 19 races left. We're ready to race." Qualifying is scheduled at 1:30 and 5:30 p.m. Friday, 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Saturday to set the 16-car field for Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations.

Ron Capps Facts:

Age: 33 Hometown: Carlsbad, Calif.

Final-round record: 8/12 (7/10 Funny Car, 1/2 Top Fuel); Last win: Topeka, Kan., 10/17/98; Quickest time: 4.864 seconds; Fastest speed: 315.45 mph

At Houston Raceway Park: His best finish has been semifinal round (last November) in four Funny Car races and two in Top Fuel.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Ron Capps , John Force