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NHRA: Capps Returns to Scene of First Funny Car Success

19 June 1998

MADISON, Ill. -- Ron Capps looks back at his first career Funny Car victory as the start of a winning relationship with legendary crew chief Roland Leong. It didn't take long for the two to combine their talents and put Don Prudhomme's Copenhagen Chevrolet Camaro into the Winner's Circle.

Capps and Leong return to the scene of that victory, the state-of-the-art Gateway International Raceway, June 25-28 for the second annual Sears Craftsman Nationals. The $1.6 million race is the 11th of 22 events in the $30-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

However, this time around Capps and Leong will be working to improve their position in a tightly contested chase for the Winston Funny Car championship. Capps is currently fourth, a distant 132 points behind leader John Force in the Winston standings.

"Ever since Roland came on board, this team has been showing results," Capps said. "This team tends to do well when the weather conditions are hot and humid. Last year when we rolled into St. Louis we had a good feeling because we did well the race before at Columbus and the conditions were going to be similar. We had a strong tuneup for that event and everything came together. After that race we knew we could be competitive and we've been building off that ever since."

Capps, from Carlsbad, Calif., says he really enjoys the racing atmosphere at Gateway.

"I love the track," Capps said. "It's a real challenge when it's hot there because the car can drop cylinders really fast and then it becomes a chore to drive the car because it gets evil-handling. The track is sort of greasy anyway when the weather is warm and the car tries to move all over the place. You really have to be ready for the unexpected. It's definitely a driver's race."

After earning victories at the season-opening Chief Auto Parts Winternationals in Pomona, Calif. and the Castrol Lone Star Nationals in Dallas, Capps has positioned himself for the championship run, along with other two-time winners Cruz Pedregon and Chuck Etchells, and points leader Force.

"It's just awesome to be one of the drivers in the hunt," Capps said. "Cruz, Force and Etchells are all running good and to be right in the middle of that group going for the title is a lot of fun. This stretch of races coming up is going to be crucial in determining the champion. The team that can make it through the summer swing of races on the West Coast with the best results will be the one to watch. We should really know who has the best chance by Indy."

Capps has a unique philosophy about this unique Funny Car battle.

"It's sort of cool because I picture this Funny Car race like a four-way battle at Daytona," Capps said. "We're all right there, in position and we're drafting. We're all trading the lead right now and trying to get in the best position for the final lap. When we get to that final lap, I'd like to be leading."

While Capps has made impressive showings at the majority of races during the first half of the season, he says it was his performance on the days when things weren't clicking at their optimal potential that has kept him in the thick of the Winston championship chase.

"We're excited because we're still in the hunt and we've had some problems with dropping cylinders over the last several races," Capps said. "The thing is, we've managed to go rounds. It's just like in golf, you're going to have good days, but you're also going to have bad days. That's what makes a champion, making a strong effort even though you're having a bad day."