CAPPS HOLDS POINTS LEAD, EXITS EARLY IN JOLIET


Driving the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge, Ron Capps maintained his points lead in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Funny Car class following his first-round exit at the NHRA Route 66 Nationals at Route 66 Raceway today.

Del Worsham, who entered the event second in the standings, also was ousted in the first round, moving Ashley Force Hood into that spot, but with Force Hood’s runner-up finish today, winner Tony Pedregon has jumped into second place and Capps is now (unofficially) 58 markers ahead of him.

After a morning rain shower, track conditions cooled, clouds covered the raceway and competition began. Without lane choice as the No. 16 qualifier, Capps faced off against the 2007 Funny Car world champion and No. 1 qualifier Tony Pedregon in the opening stanza. Capps launched a tick ahead of Pedregon, and, despite posting his quickest lap of the weekend, 4.184 seconds at 296.37 mph, he lost to Pedregon, who took the win by .0818 of a second with a 4.093/303.57 pass.

"Actually, the lanes had nothing to do with it today," said Capps. "In fact, we quite honestly thought the left lane was a little better. But we saw a lot of top-half qualifiers in front of us select the right lane and we figured Tony would be over there, anyhow.

"This is a great track. And this is why we chose to run the way we ran this weekend. We tried to do a little bit of testing because later in the year we're going to see conditions like this and we need to be ahead of everybody, and it will benefit us when it comes down to the last three races of the season. It put us in No. 16 in qualifying, but, we had a decent points lead so we weren't concerned.

"I really want to stress that Ace (crew chief Ed McCulloch) and Ronnie (Thompson, assistant crew chief) and all the NAPA guys have worked really hard to put us in a position, by winning the four races that we won and building up our points, where we could try some things during a race weekend. You have to do that or you're going to lose a test session day. With only four (non-race-weekend) test sessions allowed during a season, you're going to hear drivers talking about it more and more of how important those four sessions are.

"It's very, very important to be able to try some things you can use down the road," he added. "And we looked at the conditions this weekend as those we would likely be seeing in the last three or four races of the year, in the Countdown: some cool conditions, some very good track surfaces. And we know how Pomona (Calif., for the season-closer) is going to be. You're going to have to run high 3.90s or low 4.0s the last race of the season. We're working on that.

"Neither NAPA, Don Schumacher nor I have a problem with doing it this way. We're trying to make ourselves better and that's just the bottom line.

"It's unfortunate that we got put in a position to run Tony, who's had a great car this weekend. But, you have to remember, championships are won on those hot an humid tracks that we're going to see for the next couple of months and the beginning of the Countdown.

"That is when you really have to be on your game. Track conditions and the weather conditions that we saw this weekend evens everybody out. It really does. You can almost throw everything at it up there.

"We'll pack it up and head to Englishtown and try to do what we did last weekend in Topeka, and that's win."

Next up is the NHRA Supernationals in Englishtown, N.J., June 12-14.

UNOFFICIAL FUNNY CAR POINT STANDINGS, after 10 events:
1. Ron Capps, 760
2. Tony Pedregon, 702 (winner today)
3. Ashley Force Hood, 700 (runner-up today)
4. Del Worsham, 641
5. Jack Beckman, 584
6. Tim Wilkerson, 553
7. Matt Hagan, 513
8. Bob Tasca III, 513
9. John Force, 507
10. Cruz Pedregon, 494
11. Mike Neff, 484
12. Robert Hight, 430
13. Jeff Arend, 313