Capps, McCulloch on their game plan for Vegas
Las Vegas, prerace: NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car points leader Ron Capps and crew chief Ed "Ace" McCulloch are on their season game plan, despite a few adversities being thrown at them along the way. Any qualifying dramas are moot come race day, when Capps, McCulloch and the Brut Dodge Stratus Funny Car team seem to consistently turn up the wick and burn down the competition.
Capps and the Brut Dodge team enter this weekend's NHRA Summitracing.com Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a solid 68-point lead over John Force after four events, following a runner-up finish, a semifinal result and back-to-back victories.
And it's all just an extension of the momentum the team began following the final race of 2005, which left Capps just eight points short of his first Funny Car championship.
"When we left Pomona last year we were excited about starting the following year," he said, "because we just felt like we weren't going to change a whole lot and we were going to come out with a fresh start and begin the year the way we ended it. And that's the way things have gone, as planned."
The new Goodyear tire that NHRA mandated beginning at the third race into the 2006 season in Gainesville, Fla., after most teams had tested with it expecting to use it at the first race, however, turned out to be one of the unknowns. "We were a little bit taken aback because we did all of our preseason testing with the new tire," said Capps. "And, like I said before, allowing everyone to run the old tire for the first two races was a little disturbing because we hadn't tested with the old tire. But Ace and the guys did a great job. We got to the final and the semis the first two races with the old tire.
"I also knew when NHRA said it was mandatory to run the new tire in Gainesville that we were going to be OK. Sure enough, we ended up winning there and winning in Houston.
"The credit goes to Ace and the Brut Dodge guys because the plan was to get used to this tire, knowing full well we were going to have to run it. We spent a lot of effort and a lot of hard work in the off-season and it showed in Gainesville, and of course Houston.
"This is a great tire. Some guys were throwing out some great shots when the weather was cool, but I knew that when it came to race day and it got a little warm out in the middle of the day, it would be a challenge, and that's what we worked on in testing."
Capps is cautiously optimistic for Vegas, as conditions here could again throw the team a curve. "We know the weather is going to be semi-warm in Vegas, so I feel very comfortable coming here. But, in this game and this sport, especially the Funny Car class right now, the minute you start getting too cocky you're going to end up getting sideswiped. You don't want to get that way. You have to evaluate yourself after every race. Somebody said to me going into Houston, 'You have to feel pretty confident.' You're only as good as your last run and, yes, we won Gainesville, but you start all over at the next track. You have to prove yourself every time.
"Everything is about adaptation. We've been on and going to three different tracks: Gainesville, Houston and now Vegas, each of which provides the most adverse conditions for a tuner. We got into Houston and saw humidity that we haven't seen, along with heat. That throws a big curve to the crew chiefs, because there's a lot of water in the air. And now we're going to a high desert in Vegas, with the very dry air. Even though we tested in Vegas pre-season, we saw very, very cool conditions. That's part of what makes the great crew chiefs great over just good crew chiefs; they can adapt."
Capps' record at The Strip is strong. He's won here twice, both times at the fall event, in 2001 and 2005.
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