MADISON, Ill., June 20, 2000 - Ron Capps and the U.S. Tobacco Co. Camaro team have been called "a win waiting to happen" in NHRA Funny Car competition. They've been to four final rounds and three semifinals in 10 events so far this year.
MADISON, Ill., June 20, 2000 - Ron Capps and the U.S. Tobacco Co. Camaro team have been called "a win waiting to happen" in NHRA Funny Car competition.
They've been to four final rounds and three semifinals in 10 events so far this year. And, despite the fact they're winless, Capps and Company have won enough elimination rounds to keep Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's entry in the thick of the championship race.
Capps is in third place with 731 points going into this week's unique Sears Craftsman Nationals at Gateway International Raceway, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. The race takes place Thursday through Saturday and is the only one contested at night.
He will be attempting to gain ground on Jerry Toliver, the series leader with 837 points, and No. 2 John Force at 826. Tony Pedregon is fourth, 723, and Jim Epler fifth, 555.
"We just need to keep plugging away and do our job and hope Toliver and Force falter a little bit so we can gain some points on them," said Capps. "We just have to concentrate on racing our race and let everything else take care of itself.
"It's going to be exciting racing at night," he continued. "We don't get to do that too often. It reminds me of the old days in drag racing when Snake and Ace (crew chief Ed "Ace" McCulloch) were racing at night at a lot of different tracks around the country. I feel comfortable at night. I won a race at Topeka (October 1998) in the early hours of Sunday and that was the first time I'd raced at night."
That victory is important because it's the last time Capps won. He's been to five title rounds since, however, including one in 1999.
Capps scored a couple of firsts in 1997 when he won his first Funny Car race at the first Gateway International Raceway event. It was contested on Sunday afternoon. He didn't qualify for last year's initial night competition
"We won the first race at St. Louis," said Capps, "and that's something no one else can say. I wouldn't mind winning the fourth one, too."
The U.S. Tobacco Co. team appeared to be on its way at least another semifinal round showing during the Pontiac Excitement Nationals near Columbus, Ohio, Sunday when a mechanical failure ended Capps' day in the quarterfinals.
Combining the best Funny Car reaction time of the day (.472) with rival Scotty Cannon's slower .556, Capps bolted from the starting line and was pulling away from Cannon when the blower drive shaft broke. Capps became a spectator to Cannon's 4.975-second, 304.74-mph run while coasting to the finish line in 7.057seconds at 119.98 mph.
"When it broke it pulled the blower drive right off the front of the blower," Capps reported. "It basically twisted off, which is something you don't see very often at all. It's something that can't be helped. We don't know why it broke during that run.
"We definitely had him covered, but it just quit running," he continued. "It was quite awhile before I heard him come around me, but our car didn't want to go anywhere. I tried to pedal it a few times to make sure."
Rain in the Columbus area drowned out one qualifying session but McCulloch dialed in a 4.911-second run that grabbed the No. 3 qualifying spot. Capps ran 4.916 in beating John Lawson in the first round before falling victim to parts breakage. "Ace made the right call in the quarterfinals," Capps commented. "He fixed a little bit of tire shake that we had in the first round and the car went through the early part of the track quicker than the first time. It would've been a much better time than the 4.91 if the motor had kept running."