Some softball and some racing await at Maple Grove


This weekend, we'll be in Reading, Pa., at Maple Grove Raceway for the first of the last two races before the Countdown to 1 playoffs kick in for the top 10 drivers in points.

But, before that, we'll be playing in the NHRA Softball Classic on Thursday at the FirstEnergy Stadium in Reading for the benefit of DRAW (Drag Racing Association of Women).

Obviously, we're going to try to raise some money at the softball game, but it's kind of turned into something like the Prelude to the Dream, Tony Stewart's charity race at Eldora Speedway.

It's all for raising money and it's all for fun. But, I tell you, from the practice session we had the other day in Brainerd, Minn., and the scrimmage we played with the other team, there are some serious, serious players in this deal.

Nobody wants to lose. So much in fact that Gary Scelzi, our coach (Scelzi's Superchargers) -- known as Wild Thing, which is an appropriate nickname for his pitching -- called a second double-top-secret practice Saturday night in Brainerd. I'm glad he did, as we saw a marked improvement in our performance.

We may gain another player in the group. Tony Pedregon showed up for the practice and was doing some pitching, so hopefully he can be added to the roster. It's going to be a lot of fun. I was a fan and not a driver when the first NHRA versus IndyCar and NASCAR softball games were played, and I remember reading about it and hearing about it and wishing I could someday be in something like that. So I'm excited.

We're coming off that race in Brainerd last weekend. I love back-to-back race weekends, especially if you have a weekend like we did that didn't go quite as well as we wanted it to. We did go a couple of rounds, but you always want to get right back up on the horse.

Maple Grove is a very fast track. It's a wonderful track to go to, very scenic, and it will have completely different atmospheric and weather conditions than we had in Brainerd.

We're getting down close to the Countdown, and Reading every year seems very important, no matter how the season has gone. It always seems to stand out, so you'd better have your act together going there, and I feel comfortable with the NAPA Auto Parts guys right now.

We as drivers are asked all the time by the media about racing to 1,000 feet and how we like it.

I've been mentioning that there's probably a handful of tracks that we probably don't need to go to a quarter mile and 1,000 feet is appropriate. And Maple Grove is one of them.

It's not for any other reason than it's out in the country and they don't have the room to add on to the runoff area. The people who run the track are terrific and it's a first-class track, great track surface, but you just don't have a very good shutdown area and it's downhill, so it's very, very exciting.

These 8,000-horsepower Funny Cars are exciting enough during the run, but when you get to a track like Maple Grove or Pomona where you have to be on your game to get the car stopped, you're almost more nervous about getting it stopped at the other end than you are during the run.

At Brainerd, I told everyone this 1,000-foot finish line has really made the racing better for the fans. Not just the fans at the track but the fans watching on TV, because there are very few oildowns, the racing goes by very quickly and the day goes very smoothly.

And we don't have a lot of guys getting hurt and fires and explosions that usually happen when you race to 1,320 feet. Right now, I'm very content with the 1,000-foot track, and the fans are really coming around to where they understand that this is a very good thing for everybody involved.

Going to the U.S. Nationals in Indy on Labor Day weekend, racing to 1,000 feet is going to be weird, but racing in Reading to 1,000 feet is going to be just fine.

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.