Capps: Things are looking up

Updated: June 24, 2004, 4:10 PM ET
By Ron Capps | Special to ESPN.com

Ron Capps
Capps
Well, we finally broke through and got another win for Snake last weekend in Englishtown (N.J.) when Larry Dixon won in Top Fuel. It was Larry's first win in 18 races and vaulted him from eighth to sixth in the Top Fuel points chase. They're less then one round out of fourth place. They might be 12.5 rounds out of first place, but with 12 races left, I wouldn't count that group out. Larry's crew chief, Dick LaHaie, has been involved with five NHRA championship teams and that crew has won the title the past two years. It wouldn't surprise me at all if they make a charge toward a third straight Top Fuel crown.

Larry's win was Snake's 48th as a team owner. Snake drove to 49 wins -- 35 in Funny Car and 14 in Top Fuel. So, entering this weekend's race in Madison, Ill., Snake sits just three wins shy of the century mark. Our three cars have struggled a bit this season and you didn't hear much of the 100th talk since the beginning of the year, but I can guarantee you it will heat up after Snake getting his 97th win last weekend.

Sunday night after celebrating Larry's win, Snake, our team manager Skip (Allum), Tommy Johnson Jr. and I all drove up to Connecticut for a golf outing with one of our sponsors on Monday. It was a fun event because I got to see my buddies Ty Murray and Walt Garrison, and spend some time with some of our key sponsors. I even ended up winning the putting contest. It was like being at the races because you had to qualify by making a shorter putt. The shorter putt wasn't an easy one though. Out of nearly 60 people, only 11 guys made the shorter putt. Then it was a 40-foot putt for all the marbles. It was closest to the pin to win. One guy got within three inches and I was the last guy to go. I struck the ball and then followed it like Tiger (Woods) and pointed at it and it dropped right in the hole. It was great. The place just erupted. Talk about a great feeling.

When we're in this swing of three straight races, it's really important for everyone involved with racing to get a little time away and to be able to spend a few days with their family and just relax away from the drag strip. It was my 39th birthday on Sunday and I was gone for the Englishtown race. So, when I came home on Tuesday afternoon, my wife had a surprise birthday dinner for me at the Aviara resort in La Costa with a few of our friends. It was a really nice surprise. We had dinner and stayed at Aviara, had breakfast on the deck overlooking the resort on Wednesday morning and finished it off with a massage. What a great birthday surprise from my wife Shelley. It's very easy to get burnt out from all the time on the road, that's why I can't emphasize enough how important it is for the crew guys that work so hard -- sometimes 12 and 14-hour days at the track -- to get to spend some time away from the track and just unwind. After this weekend's race in St. Louis, we have two weekends off. That will give everyone involved in the sport a few weeks to not worry about racing before gearing up for the Western Swing and the second half of the 2004 NHRA campaign.

Early Friday morning, we'll head back to the Midwest for the first of two night races on the schedule this season. We'll also run at night at Memphis (Tenn.) in August. I remember going to Lions (Dragstrip) and Orange County (International Raceway) and watching guys like Snake and Tom McEwen race at night. There is nothing in motorsports like drag racing at night. The spectacle of the header flames shooting above the roof of a 320-mph Funny Car under the lights is unrivaled. Qualifying for the St. Louis race will be at 6 and 9 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday night, but the first round of racing kicks off at 4:30 in the afternoon on Sunday. That could create a real dilemma for the crew chiefs because qualifying will take place when the sun has gone down, but the first round of eliminations will take place when the sun is blistering the racetrack, which makes the rubber very greasy and tough to get an 8,000 horsepower Funny Car down without spinning the tires. Don't be surprised if there are a lot of first-round upsets this weekend.

I'm really excited about this race. I won the inaugural race at St. Louis back in 1997. That was a few races after Roland (Leong) joined our car as crew chief. He's been on board with my green Snake Racing Funny Car for three races now and he's already made an impact. Just look at the consistency of the car. It's getting down the race track on most passes, which is important. Last weekend at E-Town, we qualified fifth. That's our best qualifying outing in some time. Now that Roland has figured out the tuning window, he can step on it and be a bit more aggressive with the tune-up of the car.

Ron Capps drives a Funny Car in the NHRA for Don Prudhomme. He is providing a diary to ESPN.com throughout the 2004 season. The team's Web site can be found at www.snakeracing.com.

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