Capps mixes relaxation with nostalgia

Originally Published: August 11, 2005
By Ron Capps | Special to ESPN.com

Ron Capps
Capps
We just got done with what the NHRA calls the Western Swing, which includes back-to-back races at Denver, Seattle and Sonoma, Calif. Then we had last weekend off, which was much-needed for everybody, especially the Brut Dodge crew guys. It's just been brutal.

The Brut Dodge guys got to go back to Don Schumacher Racing in Indianapolis, get everything lined up, have a weekend off, enjoy themselves and gear up, because we're going to have a pretty tough swing coming up again. We have Brainerd, Minn., this weekend, then we will go straight to Memphis, Tenn. Having Memphis right before the big race for us on Labor Day weekend, the U.S. Nationals, is new for us. That started that last year. Memphis used to be after Indy.

I came back from Sonoma and actually spent my weekend off in Pomona, Calif., where we have two NHRA races a year. This time I was in a Nostalgia Funny Car (with a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda body on it) driving in the Goodguys race, the NitroNationals. It was unbelievable. Dave McClelland, the voice of drag racing, was there, as well as Tom "The Mongoose" McEwen. He was around there all week and doing appearances. Hearing Dave McClelland announcing again, seeing front-engined Top Fuel dragsters and being in a Nostalgia funny car was awesome.

It was amazing how many heroes of mine -- like Roland Leong and Dick Landy -- came out to the race to just hang out. It was a fun time. Dale Pulde was my crew chief for the weekend. We qualified in the car and lost in the first round, but it was just a great experience.

I also took my street rod, a '31 Ford coupe, to the event. I like to drive it as much as I can when I'm home and I was able to drive it back every night and put it on display, jump in the Funny Car and drive it. It was a really low-key kind of a deal. There was no rope set up around the pit area, and fans were just packed out there.

After our Memphis race, everybody will jump in the truck and haul the mail back to Indy, where we'll have a special test session Tuesday and Wednesday getting ready for the U.S. Nationals, which is our Indy 500 or Daytona 500.

Brainerd, this weekend, is a key place that you need to bounce out of with good results. Especially for us, now that we're in the front four cars in the Funny Car championship hunt. We're in fourth, just two points behind John Force in third, and 72 points behind my teammate, Gary Scelzi, in third, and just 88 points short of first place, held by Robert Hight.

From here on out in the last eight races of the season, no matter what happens, it's going to be a lot of fun. It's fun to be where we are and showing up at every race knowing that we have a chance to either move into the lead or move up in points on the leaders.

We're in a fun mode right now. My crew chief Ace (Ed McCulloch) is going through some treatments for his health right now and we're just trying to bump the fun meter up. The results will come, but we're very lucky to have the job we have, to get to do what we do -- as crew members, or drivers, or crew chiefs -- and to be able to get paid to show up at the race track to go drag racing.

It's kind of been the mood set lately by Ace. If we have a good time, do our jobs, those results are going to come, he says.

Brainerd is legendary for having a place called the Zoo, which is a campground where thousands of people camp out and party. At night a lot of the team members, drivers and crew chiefs, will get on the golf cart and go and hang out with the fans. They have little parades out there. It's almost like a mini-vacation every night. It's something I've always tried to do.

The fans in NHRA drag racing are a little different than in other motorsports. They're very willing to give you your space, they're not very rude, and they love it when we go out and enjoy the weekend with them.

My wife Shelley has family all over Minnesota. They're kind of spread out, but the town of Lindstrom is where we'll visit this week. Her mom grew up in Minnesota. Right after the race we'll spend three days on a lake in Lindstrom with her aunt and her mom and dad. They have boats and we'll go fishing.

For a guy coming from where we live in California near the ocean it's a nice vacation. And then I'll fly straight to Memphis.

Ron Capps drives a Funny Car in the NHRA for Don Schumacher Racing. He is providing a diary to ESPN.com throughout the 2005 season.

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