Skoal Racing Team searching for improved performances at new Infineon Raceway. SONOMA, Calif., July 31, 2002 - When Ron Capps thinks about racing at the facility formerly known as Sears Point Raceway, it's quite likely that's the name he'll ...
Skoal Racing Team searching for improved performances at new Infineon Raceway.
SONOMA, Calif., July 31, 2002 - When Ron Capps thinks about racing at the facility formerly known as Sears Point Raceway, it's quite likely that's the name he'll remember.
It has been a part of his racing history for a long time. But with the new name, Infineon Raceway, comes another challenge for Capps and Tommy Johnson Jr., his Skoal Racing teammate: To become the first Funny Car winner at the newly-christened track.
Almost everything is new as far as NHRA's traveling contingent is concerned. The Fram-Autolite Nationals, Friday through Sunday, provides the drivers with their first look at the revamped drag racing track as well as the completely redone Infineon complex.
"It is going to be difficult referring to the track as anything but Sears Point," said Capps, who recalls watching races there before beginning his driving career. "I think we are all looking forward to racing there because the new track could produce quicker times and faster speeds than anyone in the Bay Area has seen.
"One of the problems we had there before," continued the driver of the Green Skoal Racing Camaro, "was that the concrete starting pad was one of the shortest we raced on, so the cars weren't getting maximum traction early in the runs. Now it's 660 feet long and transitions into new asphalt. And we don't have to worry about bumps in the track because the new track isn't part of the road-racing course."
Capps, who now lives in Carlsbad, Calif., won the race at Sears Point in 1997. He lived in Cupertino, Calif., while attending college and didn't move to Southern California until '97, his first year driving for drag racing legend Don "The Snake" Prudhomme.
Capps broke out of a season-long slump with a victory at Columbus, Ohio (June 16). It was his 13th career victory, 12th in Funny Car, and his first final-round appearance of the 2002 NHRA POWERade Series.
"It was aggravating being in that kind of slump," he said. "Winning was a huge morale boost for the Green Skoal Racing crew. It's been a really tough season for our team, including Tommy's Blue Skoal Racing crew."
The Fram/Autolite Nationals is the third of three successive races on the Western swing. The first two were in Denver and Seattle, where the Skoal Racing team found it difficult to secure a round win.
"You never know who's going to win anymore. Everybody in this category is so good," Capps said after falling to Dale Creasy Jr. in the rain-delayed Seattle race Sunday. "The engine dropped a cylinder and pushed the car right, toward the centerline, and Creasy was able to get past me.
"We'll try and shake off the results from the last two races and go to Sonoma and do the best we can."
Johnson envies Capps' record at Sears Point and is looking for a fresh start at Infineon Raceway.
"I've never done well at the old track because it was tricky to get down, so maybe my luck will change with the new track and the new name," Johnson commented. "It's a Bruton Smith (owned) track and I've done well at Las Vegas and Bristol (Tenn. tracks also owned by Smith)."
Johnson's only Skoal Racing win came at Las Vegas last year and he was runner-up at the track in April.
"The Blue crew hoped to get on a roll going into the Western swing but we haven't been able to get out of the first round at either Denver or Seattle," he added. "Our car's performance is improving. We're taking small steps to be competitive. We'd sure like to turn things around at this race."
Johnson, runner-up at Houston in April, experienced severe tire shake in his opening round Sunday and lost to Del Worsham for the second time in two races.
"It was the hardest shake I've had in a long time," Johnson said. "It shook so hard it knocked out the (car's) computer, so we didn't get any data from the run and we don't know why it shook like it did."
With 14 of the 23 NHRA POWERade Series events in the books, Capps is seventh with 674 points and Johnson is ninth with 601.