- Ron Capps
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"Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! Raceway Park!" Who can forget those ads back in the old days for the Englishtown, N.J., NHRA races? Old Bridge Township Raceway Park is such an iconic drag strip that everyone from New York to California has heard those ads.
That's where we're racing this weekend, and I am really looking forward to it. Back in 2006, when we finally won the Englishtown race, it was a very important day. Any driver out here who has won the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis probably considers that to be his or her best achievement, but for me, when I go down the list of trophies I would like to have on my mantle, Englishtown is definitely at the top of the list.
There is so much history at this event that it was so neat to win it. That was big. And with the date change they made a few years ago, we're still going to see warm conditions this weekend, I suspect, and that really bodes well for our NAPA Auto Parts Dodge team.
We've been spending some time testing after the Chicago race in Martin, Mich., and the conditions got pretty warm and humid, and I think that really kind of helped us.
Ace -- my crew chief, Ed McCulloch -- has always been the kind of guy who doesn't stick around waiting for the cool weather to try and fire a shot off and be the quickest in testing. He's always been an advocate of trying to find the worst conditions and making sure we can go down them because we're going to see those at these tracks coming up, especially in Englishtown.
The track in Englishtown has been known to have tricky conditions. We should get a great run Friday night when the weather cools off, but it's always been a warm track to run at otherwise. But it also usually has a pretty wide groove and it has a great surface. That can alleviate some of the anxiety a driver might have.
Besides that, it's the biggest race we have on the East Coast and the fans are something else. We talk about them every year from the time we leave Englishtown until the time we go back. They're very vocal about their drivers and they're very adamant about who they cheer for.
To be able to drive one of these nitro cars now is pretty awesome, but to have been associated with the legends of the sport in my career is indescribable. Look at the names that I've gotten to work with and work for: Don Prudhomme, Roland Leong, Dale Armstrong, Dick LaHaie and now Don Schumacher and Ed McCulloch. I've gotten to work with the best of the best in the history of the sport, and the cool part is hearing them talk about the old days. And I love hearing that because I'm such a historian.
Englishtown always comes up when these guys are telling some of their best stories. It's a place that you never forget the first time you go there and you always look forward to going back.
All you have to do is look at the history books of all the winners of the Englishtown race. Not only has this race been around so long that this list is long, but the names are a who's-who of drag racing.
Look at Jeb Allen and Raymond Beadle. If you're a fan of racing, you know these guys were the spirit of the sport back in the '70s. Their wins in Englishtown just tell you how big this race is.
My team owner, Don Schumacher, won there in 1972. Any time you can be tied with a legend of the sport like Don Schumacher in wins at any place (we both have won once in Englishtown) is awesome. And I've told my NAPA guys, it's an amazing feat to have one Wally on your trophy wall at home. I have the luxury of having over 20 (25 to be exact) and hopefully those will keep coming.
They're so hard to get, you yearn for that next one. And that's why a lot of times even though we don't win a race there are certain guys in the sport, and they may be my teammate, whom you want to do well. For instance, in Chicago, Scott Kalitta almost won. He always has a soft spot it seems for our crew members and me, and he's such a throwback to the old days. We used to beat Scott up a few years ago when he was driving Top Fuel. I kept telling him he was a Funny Car guy. The first time I saw him was when I was a kid and he was a Funny Car guy.
You want guys to get that taste of victory every once in a while. Everybody needs it. And even though you don't have it, you don't want to be stingy and think you can win every race. You'd like to, but when you don't you'd sure like to see some of these guys who don't have very much success very often to taste it. And it was good to see Scott do well, even though he beat us in the first round. He went to the final round and just missed winning his first race in a long time.
It's going to be fun this weekend.
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.
Ron Capps is a big history buff, so is it any wonder that historic Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J., is his favorite stop?