Commentary

Plenty to celebrate as POWERade Series turns to Route 66 Raceway

Ron Capps writes about Route 66 Raceway, the Countdown to the Championship and Don Schumacher's blowout party in this week's Funny Car diary.

Updated: June 4, 2008, 10:59 PM ET
By Ron Capps | Special to ESPN.com

Ron Capps
Capps

This weekend we return to Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill., just outside of Chicago. It is an awesome and very fast facility. Records can easily be broken there.

Last year my teammate Gary Scelzi beat me in the Funny Car final round after I beat my other teammate, Jack Beckman, in the semifinal. Also, Tony Schumacher won the Top Fuel event. So, as you can tell, Don Schumacher Racing loves this track.

The Joliet race is somewhat of a home race for Don Schumacher, who lives in the Chicago area, where Schumacher Electric is also based. He has a big party at his house on Thursday night for the team and employees, and the company employees also come down to the race.

All the hospitality areas we have at DSR will be bulging because of all the people he has invited. So you always want to do well just for Don. And last year was a great race. This year the weather is looking like it's going to be pretty warm right now, and as we saw in Topeka, I really feel like Ace -- my crew chief Ed McCulloch -- and our NAPA guys are starting to hit their stride and it's good timing.

We're going to have to really peak at the right time and make sure we get into the Countdown to the Championship top 10 first. But right now we need to get things rolling, and the NAPA guys have done a great job of it.

This part of the season we want to be solidly in the top 10 when we're close to Indy (the U.S. Nationals, after which the Countdown begins). We keep saying it's pretty far off, but before you know it it's going to be right around the corner. And we don't want to be in that position. We want to be eyeing what we're going to do once we're in the Countdown, not if we're going to be in the Countdown.

It's nice to be No. 6 right now in the points, but we want to be comfortably in the top 10. We are still trying some things to get used to this new car, but I really feel, as a driver, like the car is consistent right now and that Ace is learning what it wants and it doesn't want. Nobody makes me more confident than my crew chief in the tricky conditions when you bring on the heat on these racetracks. It obviously makes it difficult to get these cars down the track, but I've got to take my hat off to the NHRA. They've done a great job these last few races preparing the track.

Dan Olson and the NHRA people have really made it great for the fans with two very good lanes. We went through some times early in the season when the track prep wasn't very good for the teams. I look forward to these races. Even though they're going to be hot and humid, like this weekend, I think we can still give fans great side-by-side racing.

These crew chiefs are so talented that even in triple-digit track temperatures they're still able to get it down the track, and also provide great racing as we saw at the Topeka race. That just encourages me as a driver.

Right now, because of NHRA's moratorium on testing at NHRA tracks, our team is probably going to end up going to a track like Martin, Mich., which is a track that is used by the IHRA circuit, and you're going to see a lot of NHRA teams finding places to test like Martin. We don't know for sure what the exact NHRA rule is, so we're not sure if it's solely NHRA tracks where we can't test.

And NHRA has its reasons for why they decided to do this. If there's no testing, there's no testing. I can spend more time with my family and that's good. If we need to test things, or if any teams need to test, they're going to be off testing somewhere. So we need to find a good track.

Martin seems to have good guardrails, and I visited there at an IHRA race last year and it was very well lit so we could also run there at night. We're going to do what we have to do. But we're still up in the air as far as the nitro availability issue goes. And the fans have to remember, and sponsors have to remember, but mainly the fans, that this is our livelihood. This is all I do for a living and it scares me when I hear things like we may be short on nitro.

We'll see what happens down the road. I don't have another job and I don't want to have to look for another job. I want to drive the NAPA Auto Parts nitro Funny Car for a living. And when we hear about the possibility of losing nitro that's a very scary thing.

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.