- Ron Capps
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This weekend begins a two-race, back-to-back swing starting in Commerce, Ga., for the NHRA Southern Nationals, and then the NHRA Nationals in St. Louis -- actually, it's over the bridge in Illinois -- at Gateway International Raceway.
Atlanta is one of the tracks where I have not won, but I've been to three finals and I've always done well there in the past. We were very encouraged by the results at Las Vegas two weeks ago, when we finally won two rounds and moved up into the top 10. We're going to focus on jumping even higher in the point standings and hopefully winning our first event of the year in the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger.
At this point, as weird as the season has started off, our semifinal result at Vegas was a huge boost for the team. So, I think there is no better time than right now to win that first race of the season. NAPA's headquarters is in Atlanta, and there are many corporate sponsors located in that area. So it's a very big race for the NHRA drag racing community. I also have a lot of friends in NASCAR who are coming over from Charlotte.
This is a really pivotal race every year in the NHRA championship chase. You can guarantee that it's going to be warm, and probably tricky. It also often rains here, so we're actually not sure what to expect. But any time we see the chance of there being heat on the track, we take it very seriously. The drivers and crew chiefs are kind of battling the track conditions a little more than usual this year. And on top of that, they're trying to learn these new cars with the added 100 pounds.
Ace -- my crew chief Ed McCulloch -- has won in Atlanta three times. Only John Force, with seven, has won more Funny Car races in Atlanta than Ace has. I'm very comfortable, as I always am, having Ace on the NAPA team making the tuning decisions.
We've been waiting for this NAPA Dodge to finally break out this year, and we knew we could do it. It's been a character-building season so far. I've always said that when things go great, everything is great around you. It's times when you struggle a little bit or you just feel like you're struggling that you really find out a lot about somebody. I kind of compare it to playing golf. You really learn about people, their integrity and their character when you play golf with them.
And when our team went into a slight struggle -- and it's funny to look back, because it wasn't that big a struggle -- we still had a great race car. But for us, with the success this team has had in the past few years, it seemed like a major struggle. And that's when you find out just how cohesive a team is. It was already apparent to me that we had great guys who, no matter what, would always stick together. And they showed me through the beginning of the year just how good a team I have around me.
So, now that we've got our hot rod back, I'm excited about the races coming up. And this is when I like to make NAPA proud to have signed up to be on the side of our race car. We have great things to come with NAPA Auto Parts. And we just want to give them the success on the track they deserve.
I just left Murf McKinney's chassis shop and got fitted for our new Murf McKinney car that we're going to test the Monday after St. Louis to see how that goes. We could run the car soon thereafter. NHRA did implement the "rule" that NHRA teams have to have one of the new cars by July. The Denver race is the deadline set by the NHRA for all the teams to have the new car. We have ours. We are certainly confident we're getting all the details together to have a winning race car again.
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.
The best medicine for an ailing drag program? A strong showing at Vegas doesn't hurt, Funny Car driver Ron Capps writes in his diary.