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Season-opening stumble at Pomona nothing to worry about

2/21/2008

Well, the NHRA POWERade season is under way. This weekend we're at Firebird Raceway, just outside of Phoenix, for the second event of the year. And I can't tell you how happy I am to get back into the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge and get this season going full force.

At the opening race in Pomona, Calif., we were not only favored by a lot of people going into Sunday morning because of our consistency in qualifying [the NAPA Auto Parts team earned the Full Throttle Pit Challenge Award for its consistent laps], but we also felt good as a team knowing we had one of the best Funny Cars on the grounds. And having that big matchup with Robert Hight in the first round kind of kick-started us right into the 2008 season. It was a heck of a way to get the season started, going down the track like we did in qualifying, in all four runs.

Unfortunately, we were the last pair for the first round of eliminations, and after some cars went into the sand in front of us and other mishaps occurred, conditions and weather has changed by the time we got up to the starting line. It bit us. We crossed the centerline trying to recover from tire shake and were disqualified. Hight also struggled, but he probably would have beaten us anyway.

We're 13th in the point standings, but I've always said you really can't start looking at the points until Gainesville, Fla. [third race of the year, March 13-16]. Every year, until you get three races in the books and let the points kind of settle themselves, you can't really look at them -- especially just from Pomona or just from Phoenix.

But once we leave Gainesville on Monday morning we can kind of see what the points are going to be. And all you really want to do is get down to Gainesville after having good results in the first two races of the year.

You always want to start off great in Pomona, but Phoenix is a racetrack that is very unpredictable, in the sense that sometimes it will seem like a tricky racetrack, and the next thing you know there's a national record set in the same day. [Robert Hight didn't back up for a national record, but he ran the quickest Funny Car E.T. there last year, 4.636 seconds.] So, it's a very mercurial place. It's weird. Some people will struggle and wonder about the track and nobody will run that well, and then you'll have a national-record speed set. It's crazy. Look at the years of how many records have been set, E.T. and mph, on a track that most people call marginal.

Starting off the year with a disappointing Sunday in Pomona is not great, despite the consistent qualifying laps. If you don't have a long day in Pomona on Sunday, you definitely look forward to getting to Phoenix. And unfortunately there's always a week in between. And you can't wait to get back in the car. Unless you win Pomona, you don't look forward to the weekend off, because you want to get right back to racing.

We had a meeting with Ace [crew chief Ed McCulloch], me, Ronnie [Thompson, assistant crew chief] and the NAPA Auto Parts team guys. We're on the list to have a couple of cars built by chassis builder Murf McKinney. And we ordered a new chassis like John Force has, the three-bar chassis that Murf built. I went over and sat in Zippy's [Mike Neff, new driver for JFR] car, in the preseason test in Phoenix. And Ace and Ronnie came over and we decided it's a very nice chassis, very safe. It's so nice to have a crew chief and a crew who looks after me. They want the best for me. And what we saw in that chassis definitely makes it the best out there, the safest. And when you look at who won the Pomona race -- Robert Hight in a new JFR car -- it's obvious the chassis works well. So, we'll be able to get a new chassis in the next couple of months.

The family and I spent President's Day on Monday watching whales on a beach near our home in Carlsbad, Calif. It was a surprise to see about eight whales so close to the shore, especially with all the surfers just inches away. It was great, but it's time to go racing.

Wish us luck.

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