LAS VEGAS - Ron Capps has two special forces in his arsenal of speed as he powers his U.S. Tobacco Camaro toward the city that never sleeps: a pair of snake eyes and an ace up his sleeve. With the combined experience of his team owner, Don 'The...
LAS VEGAS - Ron Capps has two special forces in his arsenal of speed as he powers his U.S. Tobacco Camaro toward the city that never sleeps: a pair of snake eyes and an ace up his sleeve.
With the combined experience of his team owner, Don 'The Snake' Prudhomme, and the crafty engineering that his crew chief, Ed 'The Ace' McCulloch, provides, Capps is sure to make some noise among his fellow Funny Car competitors during their first official visit to this gaming capital. He'll need both of his good luck charms if he's to break through for his first victory of the season, and ninth overall, at the inaugural NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals, April 6-9, at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Capps, from Carlsbad, Calif., is currently third in the Winston point standings entering the $1.8 million race, the fourth of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. He has posted back-to-back runner-up finishes in events at Phoenix and Gainesville, Fla. He's been very close to snagging his first victory since 1998 in Topeka, Kan.
"With the way things are going right now, it's tough to be unhappy about being runner-up at the last two races," Capps said. "We have a championship-caliber team. This is a long season and we are in the title hunt, within striking distance of the lead."
Two-time winner Jerry Toliver, driver of the WWF Racing Camaro, leads the standings, with nine-time series champ John Force, also a winner this season, a close second. Capps hopes his continuos knocks at victory's door are realized in a town where winning prayers are answered all the time. Capps, who finished ninth in the points standings in '99, feels this could be the year when he returns to his glory days of '98, when he challenged Force until the end, finishing second in points with five victories.
He says the team turnaround is due in large part to the addition of McCulloch and the tuning wizardry that the former driver brings to the team. He says at an unproven quarter-mile like The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, it's anybody's race. There are no notes from previous events to create a consistent race car setup. He says with the combination of veterans like McCulloch and Prudhomme making the calls for a setup on a green racing surface, he feels like he's in good hands.
"We have a car that's capable of qualifying on top and winning," Capps said. "Ace has a great tune-up. The only unknown is the track surface. If it's like Bristol and Chicago, then it will have the potential to be one of the best tracks on the circuit."
Capps has a history of performing well at very good tracks, as well as new tracks. If the combination is right, his black U.S. Tobacco Chevy just might carry him to the promised land.
"It's tremendous being in the points chase again," Capps said. "The way the car is running has helped me get back to driving like I did a couple of years ago. It's been great getting to the finals. Now we want to get to the winner's circle."
His 1998 season was one for the ages. It was so good, that he was considered a heavy favorite to win the championship in 1999. However, his season featured a roller-coaster ride of first round losses and DNQs. Capps has experienced both sides of the spectrum, and he thinks it has made him a stronger person. It has also set his perspective on the demanding 23-race schedule.
"We aren't thinking championship yet," Capps said. "We are thinking of staying within striking distance. Teams don't want to peak this early. There are still 20 races to go."