From The Snake Pit: Ron Capps VISTA, Calif. (March 2, 2004) -- Ron Capps recently began his eighth season driving for his childhood idol Don "the Snake" Prudhomme. In the seven previous years, the California native finished second in the...
From The Snake Pit: Ron Capps
VISTA, Calif. (March 2, 2004) -- Ron Capps recently began his eighth season driving for his childhood idol Don "the Snake" Prudhomme. In the seven previous years, the California native finished second in the Funny Car points chase twice and has amassed 13 victories while driving under Prudhomme's tutelage. He has raced to 14 wins in his career. Capps, along with Prudhomme and fellow Skoal Racing Funny Car driver Tommy Johnson Jr., is one of 13 NHRA racers to have claimed victories in NHRA's two premier categories, Top Fuel and Funny Car. In this Q&A session, the Santa Clara University grad talks about his disappointing eighth place finish in 2003, the new Chevy Monte Carlo body and what it's like to work for someone you looked up to so highly as a child.
Q: How disappointing was your eighth place finish last season?
CAPPS: Finishing eighth in points is well below not only our potential, but where we believe we can finish. We've run for the championship a couple of times since I've driven for Snake and once you've been there and tasted what it's like to be in a fight for the championship at the end of the season, every season after that is hard to replace. Anything that Don Prudhomme is associated with is and should be a championship contender. It's not fair to Skoal or Chevy or any other sponsors to not finish better than top five. We don't start the year saying we want to finish in the top five, we want to win the championship. It's the only goal of everybody on this team. When you're racing for Snake, you don't want to finish any less than on top.
Q: You've finished second a few times, is it hard to get so close and not win the title?
CAPPS: Yes, but you also have to remember that the Funny Car class is the toughest it's been in the history of drag racing. There are more cars, more guys and more teams that can win races and championships than there's ever been. You look at three owners and you've already got half the field. When you win now, you've really accomplished something. There are some guys that could win a couple rounds, now those same guys can win races and they fight for championships. Snake has never been one to rest on his laurels. Even though the Miller Lite dragster won two championships, he still wants the Funny Cars to step-up.
Q: Snake Racing brought in John Stewart to help tune your green Skoal Racing Chevy Funny Car. Are you excited about his arrival?
CAPPS: I've known John Stewart well before he joined us this year. I've been friends with him, so that makes the transition really easy for me. Todd (Okuhara) has been with me as long as I've driven a Funny Car and the guys on my crew have been with me for a long time. I think the success of John Force is due to having the same guys working well together for many years. The crew chiefs all work together with no attitudes or big egos. We've got Phil (Shuler) and Todd and now John Stewart for three heads to put together, and you can add Dick LaHaie in to that mix. Anything we want to know we can go next door to the Miller Lite team and talk to Dick LaHaie and also Mike Green from the blue Skoal Racing team. It's a pretty big group of really talented people and you want guys bouncing different ideas off of each other. John's addition to the team has been great and it paid off immediately during testing.
Q: You debuted the new Chevy Monte Carlo Funny Car body at the Winternationals. Are you now on an even playing field with the other manufacturers?
CAPPS: This is the first time that GM has gone to the wind tunnel and done a body from scratch. It really shows the support we got from General Motors and Chevrolet. GM has been with Don Prudhomme as long as I can remember and since I've been with Snake we've been with GM with the Camaro body. It's great that Chevrolet is stepping up and making a run with the best body they felt they could build. We're excited. The Monte Carlo has never been involved in drag racing. To be teammates with Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson through our Chevrolet brand is real exciting. To be able to go do things with those guys is really neat. We always felt like we were a tick behind with the Camaro body even though nobody had proof that any body was superior, but when these other companies come out with newer bodies and we're still running the Camaro we felt like we had a lot to improve on.
Q: With the new engine setup on the Skoal Racing Funny Cars, you're now running the setback blower. Have you had to adjust as a driver?
CAPPS: No. The blower is closer, but once you drop the body you can't see that. We knew the first time we warmed the car in testing at Las Vegas that the thing really sounded better. It had a deeper sound and sounded like it made more horsepower. We could tell with the first pass we made to half track the thing sounded and looked really good. It also is more efficient. I think it's going to be a big plus for the Skoal Racing Funny Cars this year.
Q: You grew up revering Prudhomme. Did you ever imagine you'd drive for him?
CAPPS: No, not in a million years. You dream as a kid about being an astronaut or race car driver or fireman, and I always had posters of Don Prudhomme, Dick Landy and Don Garlits in my room. I remember sitting in fourth grade and when I should have been doing math and homework, I was drawing pictures of Garlits' dragster and Snake's Funny Car. Growing up around the sport with my dad racing, I used to see Don Prudhomme from across the parking lot and that was a big deal to be that close to him. So, to be driving for him and to become part of his family has been more than a dream.
Q: Knowing how you feel about Snake, how excited are you to be part of his chase for his 100th victory?
CAPPS: Any time a guy like that hits a milestone is a big deal, and to be part of it is great. I honestly don't care if it's me or Tommy or Larry because we're all going to feel the same satisfaction. When you see him smile and you get to know Don Prudhomme as well as we do, you know when he's truly happy. When things really make him happy you can tell. I know that is going to be a big deal to him. I can remember when Larry and I both won at Pomona in 1998. That was a big deal. Snake had a little bit of water in his eyes. It's going to be neat. 100 wins is pretty amazing.