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NHRA: Capps Full of Confidence Heading to Visionaire Nationals

14 August 1998

BRAINERD, Minn. -- Every single inch counts when you're talking nuts and bolts in the closest battle for the Winston Funny Car championship in over a decade. That's why most of the headlines have been centered around three drivers and their award-winning crew chiefs for most of the season.

John Force has continually praised the tuning prowess of his wizard combo -- Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly. Chuck Etchells can't say enough about dynamic duo Tim and Kim Richards for keeping him in the chase. Cruz Pedregon, driver of the quickest Funny Car in NHRA history, says Wes Cerny has no equal in nitro.

Don't look now, but here comes Ron Capps and Roland Leong.

Both have been largely ignored for most of the season as realistic challengers for the championship, many predicting another mid-pack finish for the Copenhagen team. Meanwhile, three victories and two runner-up finishes later, Capps and Leong are trailing leader Force and his Castrol Technology Center by only 11 points. The team has managed to go about their business in a quiet fashion, remaining competitive and consistent.

With eight races remaining on the schedule, Capps couldn't be more pleased with his team's performance and position in the Winston standings. With Leong at his side, and team owner Don 'The Snake' Prudhomme offering insight from his years of experience, Capps is full of confidence.

He'll try to keep that confidence in full stride at the 17th annual VisionAire NorthStar Nationals, Aug. 20-23 at Brainerd International Raceway. The $1.5 million race is the 15th of 22 events in the $30-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

With a win, runner-up finish and quarter-final appearance during the tough western swing, Capps says momentum is building. And in racing, momentum is everything.

"All we wanted to do in the western swing was keep up with Force and Etchells and not let them get too far away," Capps said. "Fortunately we were able to do that. In fact, we came out of those three races in a very good position."

And Capps says much of the merit for that success has to go to Leong.

"Roland has worked so hard lately and hasn't got any of the credit," Capps said. "He deserves to be ranked right up there with all of the other top crew chiefs in the sport. At Seattle, the computer didn't work two times and he tuned the car by the engine bearings like they used to do in the old days. It was simply incredible. With Roland turning the wrenches, I like my chances down the stretch."

One thing is for certain, it will be a mad scramble until the end. Four drivers are within 100 points of the leader. Capps says the competition is too close to simply rely on overused clichs. When an opportunity to win a Winston championship comes along, he says a driver has to be ready to mash the gas like never before.

"I'd be lying if I said we were going to take it one run at a time," said Capps, runner-up last year at Brainerd's NorthStar Nationals. "At this point in the season you are fighting tooth and nail for that extra point. You're doing whatever you can do to get the edge. It's a fierce battle for the Winston championship with eight races left. It's going to be a lot of fun. Whoever wins, it's going to be a lot of fun looking back at this season. I hope I can say that at the podium at the awards banquet."