Commentary

Capps out of title hunt, but still within striking distance of year's first win

It's been a disappointing season for Funny Car driver Ron Capps. But a victory at Vegas would help take away some of the sting, he writes in his diary.

Updated: October 31, 2008, 12:42 PM ET
By Ron Capps | Special to ESPN.com

Ron CappsJeannie Broussal Ron Capps finished sixth out of 25 cars in a NASCAR Whelen All American Series race in Roseville, Calif.

It's down to the last two races of the 2008 NHRA season, this weekend at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, then the season finale at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway on Nov. 13-16.

At the previous race, in Richmond, Va., we moved up into No. 7 in the points standings, and we're hoping to end the season with at least one victory for NAPA Auto Parts. A victory would move us up even further in the standings. We're aiming for the top five.

The approach to Las Vegas this year definitely is different than it has been the past few years. The past three years, we've been in a tight battle for a championship, and it just feels a little strange going there and not being one of the guys fighting for a championship.

So the perspective changes, I think, from my point of view for sure and probably for Ace -- my crew chief, Ed McCulloch -- as well. Our goals have changed a bit the past couple of races. We definitely want to move up as far as we can in the POWERade points, and we want to try to get a win for NAPA at one of these last two races -- or both. Vegas always has been a good track for me and Ace. As long as we have been working together, we've done well there.

I think we made great strides at the race in Virginia with the performance of the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge. The car was like a bracket car all day that Sunday in Virginia, and I think you'll see a little different approach from Ace in the tune-up for Vegas.

I always look forward to Vegas. We're going for that win, but if we can help our teammate, Jack Beckman, in his championship quest at the same time on Sunday, then all the better.

Everyone is talking about the economy these days. How can it be avoided? As far as how it affects drag racing, I think it actually will help the sponsorship in our sport. We've seen some of the biggest names in NASCAR talking about how difficult it is getting sponsorship, especially for the Nationwide teams, but I think more people are realizing that NASCAR is a bit out of touch with reality when it comes to sponsorship dollars these days.

We've seen already that every sponsor that has come over to NHRA that also has been involved in other motorsports gets to see that drag racing is probably the best buy available. You get so much more for your dollar. You get close to the fans, and a lot of things go with that.

I really believe we'll see an upswing. And what's funny is that the economy has been bad here, yet the past few races we've had attendance records broken at the NHRA races. Nothing is better than looking at the grandstands on a Friday afternoon when you're doing a burnout and seeing them completely packed. So, I really don't feel the economy has hurt it.

The people know that when they buy a ticket for a drag race, they'll get close to the drivers, close to the owners and close to the racing cars. Their strong interest is evidenced by how many still come out to see us race. Drag racing is by far still the best bang for the buck.

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to drive in my first NASCAR-sanctioned event. It was at All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif., in a NAPA-backed Late Model owned by multiteam owner Bill McAnally in Northern California.

I had a great time. It was incredible. I had tested on Thursday a week before, and that was quite an experience. I learned to listen to a spotter in my ear for the first time. The next week, we qualified for two laps on Friday, and I ended up 15th in a field of 25 cars.

In Friday's practice (the race was on Saturday), I got out on the third-mile paved oval with some of the other cars, and being in traffic and having a spotter talking to you at the same time was something I really had to get used to.

Then, Saturday's practice was pretty much all during the day, and the race was going to be at night, so we knew the conditions would be different. The guys at McAnally's team were first-class -- they knew what to do with the car, and they were taking what I was telling them and making changes to the car, and we were right with everybody else.

I knew starting 15th meant that I would have to just stay clean and try to bring the car back in one piece. We just kept moving up the ladder and passing people, missing wrecks. It wasn't until a couple of laps left that my crew chief, Chris Nelle, told me I was in sixth place.

The fans were great. Many NHRA fans who came up to me and congratulated me, and I truly believe we made some new NHRA fans that day. I cannot wait to do this again. McAnally has left the door open, and you just might see me in one of his cars again somewhere down the road.

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.

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