Commentary

Funny Car field a free-for-all, even without John Force

Ron Capps needs to gain just one spot to qualify for the NHRA's Countdown to One. So it's do-or-die time this weekend at Virginia Motorsports Park, he writes in his diary.

Updated: October 4, 2007, 3:31 PM ET
By Ron Capps | Special to ESPN.com

Ron Capps
Capps

This weekend's NHRA race at Virginia Motorsports Park outside of Richmond, Va., finally will determine the top four who will race in the Countdown to One in the last two races for the championship. So, it is an important weekend. We're fifth in points and we need to move into the top four.

So, right now I'm really excited. There's going to be a lot of pressure and basically it's who goes the furthest out of the six of us (me, Tony Pedregon, Robert Hight, Jack Beckman, Gary Scelzi and Mike Ashley) is who will get into it. We just need to have a big race. But it's a perfect time. I told Ace (crew chief Ed McCulloch), that this is a great time for us to get racy. When I say racy I mean to get back in the mode that we were in in the beginning of the year where we roll up there and guys are not happy about racing us. And I think we have that car back after our Monday tests following the Dallas race.

This race is going to be great for the fans, for the drivers, for everybody. It is going to be as pressure-filled as it gets. Especially for the six guys in Funny Car.

Last year was our first year back to Virginia Motorsports Park for some time and there were still some issues with the track surface that needed to be addressed last year. It was a difficult racetrack because we had a rainout and had to come back and it was freezing cold.

So, I think a lot of the notes we had from last year are just going to be thrown away. It will be a whole different weekend.

And it will definitely not be the same without John Force. I left Force a message on Sunday night. lt's funny. I told him, what he went through and lived through, to still have his legs, to still be breathing and be alive, is amazing.

The guy amazes me. It's just another one of those deals where John Force makes you shake your head, that he lived through something like that. I still can't believe it when I watch that thing over and over. Only John Force, it seems, would come out of something like that.

We had to test on Monday. It was very hard. It was probably one time I didn't want to drive a Funny Car. But we had to get what we needed to test done. It wasn't easy, knowing John was in the hospital.

We need John Force. We really want to race with him in this Countdown and he just got around us in points. It would have made Virginia that much more exciting. I fully expected him to show up in Richmond to cheer on his teammates, but I also feel he needs to seriously recuperate.

As for his place in the points right now, I believe if we just qualify for the event we will go around him in the standings.

There's a lot of things changing. The thing that came out of Eric Medlen's death and of course John's crash is that we had a conference call with (chassis builder) Murf McKinney, with some of the crew chiefs (McCulloch, Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler, Tim Wilkerson, Brian Corradi, NHRA's Dan Olson, and I think Mark Oswald) on the changes to be made to make the cars better. It was an unbelievable thing for Murf to do. He was able to have a conference call where we could all look at his computer and watch what the car went through on a 3-D diagram. And he showed us how to strengthen it. It was very informative, and the changes he wants everybody to make to strengthen these cars will make you feel better getting into the car, for sure.

It makes you wonder why those two Force cars did the same thing. And you constantly wonder if your car is going to have something like that happen to it. You look at these chassis and they still look the same as they did in 1970. They're basically built to the same configuration. I think everybody needs to take a very hard look down the road at making these cars safer. For years we thought if there was an accident, there's an accident. But when you get drivers killed and drivers hurt, you have to look at the future.

We're taking a hard look at lengthening the wheelbase of these Funny Cars to give the driver's compartment more room. There's a lot of things to look at down the road. And the one thing that we can't do is have a knee-jerk reaction. People are talking about the speeds that are hurting these guys, but you have to remembers that Eric Medlen's car wasn't even at half-track. So, it's not necessarily the speed. We have to look at possibly following NASCAR's path to designing a Car of Tomorrow.

That conference call with Murf was really interesting. You went to a site on the Internet where everybody could log on, and you could actually see Murf's desktop. And whatever he was doing on his desktop everybody could see, and at the same time you call into this conference call, so you can hear everybody talking and you can see everybody's name. It's pretty cool because he clicked on to the old chassis and showed what happens during a run and you could see the bars on the chassis -- red ones, green ones and blue ones. The red ones showed where there was a lot of stress on certain areas of the car during a run. And you could see the ones that actually broke were red under certain conditions during a run. It was amazing.

What Murf is doing will help strengthen these cars and we appreciate his efforts.

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.

ALSO SEE