Commentary

Experiments over, it's time to get back in gear

Running well early in the season gave Ron Capps' Funny Car team a chance to experiment. That's enough of that, he writes in his diary.

Updated: August 9, 2007, 4:37 PM ET
By Ron Capps | Special to ESPN.com

Ron Capps
Capps

We're in Brainerd, Minn., this weekend for the first of the last two events before the Countdown to the Championship begins, and we've already clinched a spot in the top eight for the Countdown.

In the past, Brainerd was the race that was right before Indianapolis, so it was always a big race, especially for the Skoal Showdown. That was always the last race where a Funny Car driver could gain any points for that bonus event, which is run at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis on Labor Day weekend.

Now, it's a race that's the first of two before Indy, and it's very, very important for a lot of teams. Having clinched a spot in the Countdown is huge, because we were able to try some things during race conditions that we've been wanting to test.

We sacrificed a few bad races results-wise doing that, but I think Ace (crew chief Ed McCulloch) is finished experimenting. I think we're going to be back to our normal deal, and we're ready to race and win in Brainerd.

The Brut "Test Drive" program through the summer months has been a lot of fun. It's really been positive. More than anything, on the business side, Brut has been able to see just how loyal drag-racing fans are. I wasn't even sure how big it was going to be, and the numbers they got back told us. I've got to thank everybody out there, because the ads Brut ran and all the stuff they did with this program were a huge success. It also means that word gets passed around to other sponsors that may want to come into the sport, and what Brut has done has been great.

Now, the only thing we've got to do is get this new Brut "Test Drive" body a win. We haven't given it a win through the summer months, and we only have these two races left to do it before we go back to the blue Brut Revolution car in Indianapolis, so we have a special interest in winning in Brainerd.

We've won there in the past, twice -- and when you look at a guy like John Force, who has won there 10 times, and then I'm next on the list with two, it shows you how lucky I am to have won it those two times.

It's a track that plays tricks on crew chiefs and drivers. You've got to be ready; the crew chiefs have to deal with the humidity and heat, and it can really throw some curveballs at them. And I always feel like any time we have conditions that change that quickly, I've got one of the best crew chiefs in the business to adapt to those conditions.

Right now this whole team is excited about the Countdown. We're going into it with a great positive approach. And I can't think of a better place to be than in Brainerd right now.

I think Sonoma really taught us something; we lost in the first round while trying some clutch parts. People have to understand that there are things a lot of teams may test to find out if they work, but most of the time you find out what doesn't work. And that creates more data for a crew chief. And for us that has been the case, really, through the last four races.

Yeah, we did well in Denver, but Sonoma bit us. You look at other crew chiefs, like Jimmy Prock (Robert Hight's crew chief), and I'm sure they were trying things, as well. Hight also went out early. It's just a product of the Countdown. You hate to tell your own fans, "Hey, I'm sorry we didn't do as well as we wanted to in Sonoma, but we needed to try some things." It's important for us to know that we can go to a race later in the year, during the Countdown, and know whether something works or doesn't work. People have to get used to it.

We're lucky enough to not be sweating it out in the sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth positions right now. And, I've said it before, I'm sitting back like a fan and watching this great battle for that last spot.

We want to be the points leader when the Countdown starts in Indianapolis. We're solidly in the Skoal Showdown, too, and Indy has become an even bigger and more important race than it ever was on our schedule.

Wish us luck.

Ron Capps drives the Brut Revolution Dodge Funny Car in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series and is providing a diary for ESPN.com during the 2007 season.