Seattle: Johnson/Capps preview

KENT, Wash., July 23, 2003 - Teammates and friendly rivals, Ron Capps and Tommy Johnson Jr. have more in common than seats in the Skoal Racing Funny Cars owned by drag racing legend Don Prudhomme. Both grew up in a home with a father who raced.

KENT, Wash., July 23, 2003 - Teammates and friendly rivals, Ron Capps and Tommy Johnson Jr. have more in common than seats in the Skoal Racing Funny Cars owned by drag racing legend Don Prudhomme.

Both grew up in a home with a father who raced. Both aspired to become drivers, and they did. Each drove a Top Fuel dragster before moving to Funny Car. And Johnson and Capps both registered their first professional Top Fuel victories at Pacific Raceways, then known as Seattle International Raceway.

Carrying the parallels one step farther, they each defeated Cory McClenathan in the finals. Capps, however, has one up on Johnson. He's also been a Funny Car winner at the track.

Johnson will be trying to even the score this weekend when NHRA's touring POWERade Series returns to Pacific Raceways for the CARQUEST Nationals, July 25-27. This is the middle event in the traditional western swing that includes three races in three weeks with stops in Denver, Seattle and Sonoma, Calif.

The driver of the Blue Camaro, Johnson - a quarterfinalist at Denver Sunday - is looking to break into the win column for the first time since April 2001, his first year with Prudhomme. In the meantime, he's added six runner-up finishes to his resume, including one at Joliet, Ill., June 1.

"It will be good to get back to sea level," said Johnson. "I think we'll do just fine there. We haven't won many rounds on this western swing the last few years, so I guess winning one round at Denver has been the high point so far. I'm viewing it as a positive.

"We'll have more data to use at sea level. It's not a guessing game," he added. "It will be a game of getting the car down the track in Seattle. The groove is real narrow, but you can make good power. You are capable of making good runs, but the driver and crew chief have to be in sync there because the crew chief has to figure out how to get it down the track and the driver has to be right on top of the steering wheel, keeping it in the groove.

"I've had a lot of success there . . . I know the grooves real good. I used to drive around the bumps in the track. If you like driving, it's a driver's track."

Johnson, who finished second in his first final round at Seattle in 1991, made it to the winner's circle here in 1993 with a decision over McClenathan.

Two seasons later, Capps, in his first year of Top Fuel competition, stunned McClenathan in the title round of one of the longest, non-postponed races in the Northwest. Rain delayed the final round until Wednesday of the following week.

Capps joined Prudhomme's U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Funny Car team in 1997 and added his name to the SIR winner's list in 1998.

"I love to go racing at Seattle," said Capps, driver of the Green Camaro. "I look forward to seeing it on the schedule. We were pretty upset about our first-round loss at Denver, but the silver lining is that the Seattle race is this week. We don't have to wait through a week off.

"The three races in a row for a racecar driver are great because you don't have any time off and you get right back at it. It's tough for the crews, but we look forward to the three races."

Trouble in the clutch area slowed Capps Sunday at Denver and he lost to Frank Pedregon in the opening round.

"We expected to run a 5.10, but the car slowed," Capps explained. "That's history. The conditions are going to be fast in Seattle and the air (atmospheric condition) is going to be good. That's 180 degrees from what it was up on the mountain in Denver."

Capps (766) and Johnson (673) rank sixth and seventh in points. Capps won at Phoenix in February and was runner-up at Englishtown, N.J., advancing to the finals with a win over Johnson in their only 2003 meeting.

Capps is 28 points (a round win is worth 20 points) behind Gary Densham, 51 behind fourth-place John Force, and 66 behind No. 3 Del Worsham.

"This is the time of year where you can really make some points up or you can lose some," said Capps. "We have to make sure we go to Seattle and bounce back the best we can."

The Skoal Racing team qualifies Friday at 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. and Saturday at noon and 3 p.m. Sunday eliminations begin at 11 a.m.

-sr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Densham , Don Prudhomme , Tommy Johnson Jr.