Commentary

With California home safe from fires, attention turns to flagging title hopes

Ron Capps had a lot more on his mind than racing in recent weeks, but his Carlsbad, Calif., home was spared from wildfires. He writes in his diary that winning the Funny Car title in the season's final event may take a miracle, but he intends to give it his best shot.

Updated: November 1, 2007, 4:25 PM ET
By Ron Capps | Special to ESPN.com

Ron Capps
Capps

I have to apologize to everyone who reads this diary on ESPN.com for not posting a diary last week before the Las Vegas NHRA Nationals. It's been a hectic time for me, my family and my Brut Dodge team. We were, and still are, in the middle of a battle for the Funny Car championship.

We had to evacuate our home in Carlsbad, Calif., because of the California wildfires, and we have been committed to testing, appearances, media functions and photo shoots for Don Schumacher Racing, NHRA and our outstanding sponsors.

Luckily, the evacuation order for Carlsbad was lifted just as my wife, Shelley, and I started to drive toward Las Vegas after staying at a local hotel and keeping in touch with what was happening with the fires. Our home survived, and we are extremely grateful to everyone, including the firefighters, police and volunteers who put their lives at risk to contain these devastating fires. Our hearts go out to everyone who suffered losses.

As for the Funny Car championship, we lost in the first round in Las Vegas, but so did two others in the Countdown to 1: Robert Hight and Gary Scelzi. No. 1 in points Tony Pedregon, however, went on to win that event and, now with just this weekend's Pomona, Calif., event left to decide a Funny Car champion in this playoff system, he has taken a dominant lead of 91 points over second-place Scelzi, and 113 points ahead of us, in fourth. We would have to win Pomona, set a national elapsed-time record, and Pedregon would have to not show up at Pomona and/or not qualify for us to even have a chance.

So, it's great drama. It looks as though it's turning out to be a fight for second place, unfortunately. But, mathematically, we have a shot at our first Funny Car championship. You saw what we did in Richmond, Va., when it looked as if we wouldn't even make it into the top four for the Countdown to 1, and we fought our way into it. When our backs were against the wall we came out swinging and if there's a crack in the door, we're going to blast it open in Pomona (eliminations Sunday at 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

It was a tough week. I was at a photo shoot for NAPA Auto Parts in Indianapolis in preparation for the announcement we were going to make in Las Vegas about NAPA coming on board as our new primary sponsor in 2008. We actually cut the photo shoot short and they got me out of Indianapolis and home when the fires broke out. My family had already obeyed the mandatory evacuation order, so we weren't sure what was going to happen. It was two days of wondering if you're losing everything that you hadn't grabbed out of the house.

I was really hoping that they were going to contain the fires, and that we were going to be OK, and that's how it turned out.

I was so looking forward to getting to Vegas and getting my mind off the fires and focusing on the race. The Countdown has created so much attention that we had a lot of media functions going on. There was a great downtown Fan Fest that NHRA and Las Vegas Motor Speedway organized on Fremont Street. It was awesome, with a huge crowd of fans. It really shows that this sport is so healthy right now, and it was nice to get to Vegas and get our minds off the fires. Everybody did such a great job putting the fires out that I could go to Vegas and race and know that everything would be OK at home.

Part of the Countdown scenario, unfortunately, is hoping that a competitor has bad luck and cheering for somebody you may not cheer for usually. When the three of us lost in the first round and Pedregon advanced, I know we were all hoping he would not continue, but he did and won.

We knew he could virtually clinch the championship in Vegas. Mathematically, maybe not, but pretty much. You hate to root for somebody to beat the other guy, but it was exciting. We gave it our best shot, but this was a race that we knew we had to do pretty good at, if not great, in order to go into Pomona and not have our backs against the wall. We didn't get by that first round and it cost us.

Pomona is Pomona. It's going to be an emotional week because of the late NHRA founder Wally Parks not being there. One of my last conversations with him was him telling me I was going to be a champion someday.

I'm hoping to have a very good Pomona. I've won there and I've had some pretty decent times there, but it's been awhile since I've had great success in Pomona. That place is kind of home to me. It's a unique race with qualifying on Thursday afternoon and again on Friday and Saturday afternoons.

It's a different mind-set going into Pomona, and it's a very, very fast track with a very short shutdown area. You have to be on your game as a Funny Car driver. It demands every bit of your experience and your guts, to be honest with you. I'd like to be able to go there and kind of break that jinx of winning there again.

It's fitting, with Wally Parks passing away and us going to Pomona, to have the Countdown come down like it is. It's going to be exciting. NHRA says the ticket sales are already are sky-high.

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.

ALSO SEE