RON CAPPS: RECOLLECTIONS OF A NIGHT IN THE DIRT Prelude to the Dream encore HBO Pay-Per-View presentations available through June 15 MARTIN, Mich. (June 11, 2008) - While testing the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car this week in ...
RON CAPPS: RECOLLECTIONS OF A NIGHT IN THE DIRT
Prelude to the Dream encore HBO Pay-Per-View presentations available through June 15
MARTIN, Mich. (June 11, 2008) - While testing the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car this week in preparation for the NHRA SuperNationals in Englishtown N.J., June 20-22, Ron Capps took some time to reflect on and recollect his memories of an exciting night of racing in the dirt June 4 at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.
For the fourth straight year, Capps drove in the Prelude to the Dream, at the invitation of track owner and NASCAR racer Tony Stewart. He was behind the wheel of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Late Model on Eldora's famous half-mile dirt oval in the 30-lap main event which aired live on HBO Pay-Per-View and which benefited Kyle Petty's Victory Junction Gang Camp II in Kansas City and the Tony Stewart Foundation.
For those who missed the live action on TV, HBO Pay-Per-View will have encore presentations of the all-star dirt late-model race available now through June 15. Contact your satellite or cable provider and check your local listings for dates and times. HBO Pay-Per-View's racing telecast has a suggested retail price of $24.95.
We asked Capps about the events of that evening:
Q. How does it feel to have contributed to raising one million dollars for the Victory Junction Gang Camp?
A. The best part was Tony Stewart getting out of the car after winning and flat out writing a check for one million dollars and handing it to Kyle Petty. We're not sure, because Pay-Per-View takes so long to get the results in, whether we actually raised the million we were aiming for. I would say I bet we did, but for Tony to get out and write a check for one million dollars was unbelievable. In the driver's meeting I was sitting and talking with Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and guys like that and I learned that they donated not only their time but their money as well. So, I had a feeling we were going to reach the one-million-dollar goal. I knew when a challenge like that is thrown at Tony that he was going to be able to raise a million dollars.
Q. So, what's the real story about your "walling" Jimmie Johnson, as was reported on the show?
A. I haven't gotten to watch the telecast yet. It was crazy. We had such a great car early in the night. We qualified very well, in front of some very good race-car drivers, so we were real happy. And I finished fourth in my heat race and not because somebody crashed in front of me. I finished a solid fourth and that transferred me right into the A Main and that's a huge accomplishment at a race like that. So, I was real happy with the car that Brian Ruhlman put together for me. It made me look probably better than I am.
And then in the A Main somebody came underneath me a few laps into it and pushed me up and I could hear a car on my right side and I felt something so I knew somebody had hit the wall and it tore up the right rear of my car. And when it did that it took away part of my spoiler. I didn't know it at the time until I got back to the pits. The car was so loose I could hardly hang on to it and guys were just going past me. I wanted to hang on and finish the race at least.
At a track that big and fast these cars are so aero-dependent, it was nice to know there was a reason that it was that loose, because I almost spun a few times trying to hang on to it.
Q. Did you know you were involved with Jimmie when that incident happened?
No, I had no idea. I know that after somebody pushed me up I could hear and feel the car next to me after I got pinched up against the wall and then the caution had come out. And there was another car spun out, I guess, so I wasn't sure who was there.
I only learned later that it was Jimmie's car on the high side. Jimmie is one of my better friends. He told me he was so mad at himself for not coming to this race sooner, that he had so much fun out there, that it's going to be an even bigger event next year.
That's part of the allure of these cars. There are no mirrors and no spotters, so you have to rely on your senses of hearing and knowing where you are on the track.
Q. Did he say something to you afterwards?
A. No. To be honest with you, Jimmie didn't even know. He went on to finish eighth so it obviously didn't do any damage to his car. Jimmie is one of those guys I have know personally for a long time and we trade text messages weekly. He'll congratulate me on how I do and I do the same for him. So, if it was him, if he was put out of the race, I would have felt bad. But obviously he finished eighth so his car was good.
We have since talked and there are no issues. He was just so excited about being a part of the event.
Q. There was a potential problem of the event not even starting. Was there concern?
A. It was a hair-raising day. We went straight to Indianapolis after (our NHRA race in) Topeka and we were driving over to Rossburg. We had tornadoes come through Indianapolis that morning and I called Tony and they kept telling me it may be put off until September because it was so muddy there. Then they called back at 12:30, which was the ultimate drop-dead time for me to drive to the track and they said it was on. So my wife Shelley and I jumped in the car and flew over there. They rushed through the press conference and got all the drivers in their cars and it came off perfect.
Q. How was the experience, for your fourth time in the Prelude?
A. It was great. I was so excited going into the A Main prior to the car being damaged. Just to finish the race is a big deal and still finishing ahead of a lot of guys was great. But to have a car that racy early in the night was a lot of fun. After driver introductions we were rolling around in the back of the trucks and waving to the fans. Nobody was getting in the truck with Kyle Busch so I grabbed Kyle and said, Come on let's get in. I want to hear what it's like to get booed at, and he laughed. We had a good chat with a lot of very cool people: Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer. A lot of these guys I don't get to see very often. It was really cool how much they follow our sport. I say this every year, but you wouldn't believe how often they say they turn their TVs on when they're at their races to follow how we're doing.
It's funny because I don't know a lot of these guys very well, but because they follow NHRA it's like we all know each other even better.
Q. How much damage was there to your car?
A. It wasn't that bad. All it tore up was sheet metal, but it was so loose at that point it's like taking a spoiler off of one of our Funny Cars. The car just wouldn't gain any traction.
Q. How was it racing in the mud and dirt?
What the announcers were talking about the track being 'icky, wet and gooey' was actually good for the cars. It made it very sticky and very fast early in the night. They had so much rain earlier that day.
The funniest part was pulling up there when we first got to Eldora and there's one of those big tractors going around the track and we had done the media thing and Tony (Stewart) was nowhere to be found. Well, I rolled in in my rental car, I was getting ready to drive into the infield and they had me hold on for a second because there's this huge tractor going around. And there's Tony up in this tractor working the race track and he did it all day. And come driver introductions he came up behind me and grabbed me by the shoulders and said, 'Hey, Man, I want to thank you for coming again.' He did that to everybody because he hadn't seen anybody yet. He was out there working on the track all day long. To see the smile on Tony's face, which we haven't seen on the NASCAR telecasts because he's had a bad season so far, was worth it.
Q. How about competing against the other NHRA driver in the field, Cruz Pedregon?
I was getting ready to go out for my heat and I could watch the big screen as we were sitting there, and I was watching Cruz. You could tell he was fighting his car a lot. He was last in his heat. And Jeff Gordon wrecked, a bunch of guys kept wrecking, and every time he'd come around Cruz was moved up a spot. So I was pulling for him to get a transfer into the A Main. I think he ended up finishing fifth.
It's good to have Cruz in the Prelude. He did a great job this year. Tony called a few years ago and said that one of his track sponsors is also Cruz's sponsor and wanted Cruz entered in the race. So, Tony called me to ask if Cruz was somebody who should be in the race. And I said, absolutely, he's a great dirt racer. He owns his own USAC teams, and I told Tony that's a guy you should have in this race as well.
Q. Are you ready to do it again next year?
A. Oh, yeah. Every year when I leave there Tony and his people say, 'Man you're coming back.' To be invited the first year and to continue to be invited is awesome. Tony had taken me under his wing a few years ago and because he thinks I can go out and do well was just the ultimate compliment. We had Mike Rearden from NAPA come to the race for his first time. He handles all the NASACR and NHRA promotional stuff for NAPA, and he was grinning ear to ear the whole night. I'm pretty sure he will be back as well.