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Off-the-track obligations offer temporary diversion

10/18/2005

I cannot tell you how glad I am that this week preceding this weekend's NHRA
race in Las Vegas is going to be a busy one for me. It'll hopefully keep my
mind off this increasingly tough Funny Car championship chase as it comes
down to these last two races: Vegas and Pomona, Calif., on Nov. 4-6.

Vegas is one of those races where you always seem to have a lot of things
going on for the sponsors. At this race, we will also have three TV crews
shooting feature coverage of our team for a few upcoming television shows.

One of my Brut Dodge racing crew members, Ed Serauskis, is getting married
in Vegas, so I'm throwing him a bachelor party on Wednesday night. His
wedding is on Thursday night, and actually we are going straight there from
a team autograph session at the Treasure Island Hotel, which is one of our
sponsors. I'll be doing the autograph session in my tuxedo and then running
across the street to the wedding.

On top of that, I drove to Vegas Monday night because on Tuesday Oakley had a celebrity golf tournament with me, Gary Scelzi and Scelzi's crew
chief, Mike Neff, as well as some other celebrities from TV and sports.

I also have a Brut appearance on Thursday during the day. It's just going to
be a very busy week. Then, going into the weekend, there's a World of
Outlaws race on the Vegas oval on Friday and Saturday night, which I will
definitely be going to both nights to watch our good friend, Danny Lasoski,
compete.

I'm kind of glad it's that busy. At this point everything is so weighted on
what's going to happen in the Funny Car championship that it's probably
better not to have too much free time and too much time to think.

I'm third in points right now. I've been in second, fourth and fifth since
mid-season. My teammate, Gary Scelzi, had been stuck in second or third for
what seemed forever, and then he led for three races. Now he's second to
John Force. And the Force Racing guys have also been in the "no one wants to
win this thing" mix. Force led mid-season but had fallen as far back
as fourth; he's now back in the lead. Rookie Robert Hight led for five of
the last nine races, but is now in fourth, and while Eric Medlen has never
topped the charts, he has always been a player.

It's kind of been that way, back and forth, most of the season. We were
probably looked at as being out of it before the Chicago race and we fought ourselves right back into it.

It's been one of those years where, I'm telling you, all five teams are
going to look back and see lots of places where they're going to take a pen
and circle certain races and say, "You know what, this is where we need to
improve."

But it's not going to be like years past where we sat down and had team
meetings and figured out we could have done better here and there and this
is where it cost us and this is where we won the championship. It's going to
be a case of looking back and saying, "Man the competition is so much tougher
now, it's driving a lot of teams to make mistakes at times." And when you see
a guy like John Force go out as many times in the first round as he has
(nine times this year, to be exact), it tells you how great the competition
is. That's just never happened to him, that I can remember.

I believe (Force's crew chief) Austin Coil is just being pushed a little bit
more by some of these teams and it's great for the whole class.

And even with two races left and Force having a couple of rounds on us, you
have to remember he's also out of "freebies" from oildown penalties (10
points and cash). We appealed ours from Reading, Pa., where the NHRA
erroneously said we oiled the track. We're waiting to hear back from Graham Light (NHRA's competition director) on ours. We have one free one, Gary
Scelzi has two free ones at this point.

God forbid that Force (or any of us) would have an oildown in these last two
races, but that's half a round if it happens to him on race day. There are a
lot of things going on.

If the weather cools off, there could be a national record set in Pomona. I
don't think it's going to happen in Vegas, but you never know. It's just
been one of those years.

To say that we're not nervous would be lying. But, it's more of a nervous
excitement. When you have a guy like Scelzi, who's a three-time world
champion, who gets his nerves up a little bit and red-lights (in Dallas), it
just tells you how tough it is, because he's probably as cool as they come.

I admit that I've been nervous and have had an upset stomach on Sunday
mornings. I had a long talk with Force and I found out I'm not the only guy
who does that, and it's good. You have to go up there with that feeling.
It's what you really live for. I'm getting to like it. I'm getting to like
that feeling like I'm going to throw up before I stage the car. I'm getting
to feel like I can up myself another level. And you always look for that
next level to take yourself to, whether it's mentally or physically, to make
yourself better.

The next step for me mentally is to break a barrier and elevate myself to
another level. At this point we're at the highest level in the sport. So, to
somehow strive and find another level is tough to do, and guys like (13-time
Funny Car champion) Force and (three-time Top Fuel titlist) Scelzi know how to do it. I still feel like I'm learning.

So far, I've been able to go up there and do my job, as nervous as I've
been, so as long as I can keep doing that and Ace (crew chief Ed McCulloch)
and the Brut guys keep doing what they're doing, we're good.

Like Ace said, we're enjoying the moment and we're going to take it right to
Sunday night and Pomona.

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.