Commentary

Capps hopes to make noise after quiet offseason

Ron Capps has a new sponsor and a new outlook as he braces for the season-opening Funny Car shootout at Pomona, he writes.

Updated: February 6, 2008, 3:22 PM ET
By Ron Capps | Special to ESPN.com

Ron Capps
Capps

We're back for another season in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, beginning this weekend in Pomona, Calif. And I am happy to be back here on ESPN.com writing this diary. I am hoping whoever reads this gets a better idea of what goes on inside the head of a driver whose job is to tear down the quarter-mile at more than 330 mph in less than five seconds in a vehicle that produces nearly 8,000 horsepower. It's not for the faint of heart, but I love it.

We last raced in November, and it was a really great offseason. We have a new sponsor, NAPA Auto Parts, on board for the Dodge Charger R/T I drive for Don Schumacher Racing, and that is just awesome.

Sometimes, you don't go very far in the offseason and you're ready to go racing again. But, after last season, after the entire team -- Ed "Ace" McCulloch and I -- fought to get into the Countdown to One, I really felt I needed some rest. It was pretty grueling at the end.

It was nice to spend a lot of time with the family and do a lot of cool things. When preseason testing at Phoenix rolled around last week, you could tell it was time to go racing again.

We had a great test session there. Every year, we talk about going to Pomona, the excitement of the new sponsors, the new paint schemes, and you always can tell the drivers' anticipation for the new season by how the preseason testing goes. And for the most part, the past few years we have come off our preseason testing in good shape and we have had a great showing at Pomona. I think the two go hand in hand.

The conditions at Pomona obviously will be different from those at Firebird Raceway. On top of that, this year you have to throw into the mix the nitromethane percentage that NHRA upped from 85 percent to 90 percent, which I think is going to help the teams, believe it or not, with attrition and parts breakage. Not only that, the cars sound so much better. They sound like they did when I was a kid. You can really tell the difference, and that's awesome.

The downside is the weight NHRA added to the Funny Cars. It added 100 pounds, which is a pretty substantial amount, and it's taken its toll already. At Firebird testing, guys were going off the end of the track and having a hard time slowing down their cars. The crew chiefs still are focused on getting the cars down the track, but I think the NHRA didn't do its homework by not taking into consideration that somebody has to slow down these cars with the extra weight on them.

That's going to be interesting to watch in these upcoming races, especially at Pomona, where we have one of the shorter shutdown areas. There were teams leaving Firebird on Wednesday that weren't quite happy with their tune-ups. The extra weight is really throwing some curves.

I think it is likely a majority of the teams are not quite as ready as they would like for Pomona, but we have no choice. However, we know the track will be great, and the conditions are going to be great for the Winternationals. I'm looking forward to a good start, especially with our new sponsor.

As for added safety modifications, I had a new seat poured and some head padding done. And we have the car from last year that we had retrofitted after John Force's wreck, with the extra bars in it. Other than having to bolt all that weight all over the car, it's pretty much the same car we finished with last year.

People are asking me if this is my year to finally win a championship. It's funny. After the first couple of times you get asked this question (like we were a few years back when we finished second), and when you have certain media predicting in the preseason that this could be your year -- it finally just goes in one ear and out the other ear. There is so much that goes on in a season. I've been in the lead by a substantial margin halfway through the season, and I still know better. There is so much that can happen in this sport. That's what makes it exciting. You don't know if you're the champion until the absolute end.

I really applaud the NHRA for changing the Countdown format this season. At the end of last year, it was just not quite right. And I really think everybody is going to benefit from the change. As for the change to the qualifying format, that remains to be seen. I think any change will be good, but I'm interested to see how that comes out as well.

Wish us luck.

Ron Capps drives the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger Funny Car in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series and is providing a diary for ESPN.com during the 2008 season.

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