INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 1, 2009) –While Ed "Ace" McCulloch has won the U.S. Nationals six times as a driver in Funny Car and Top Fuel, Ron Capps, the pilot of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Funny Car he now tunes for Don Schumacher Racing, has yet to see the winner's circle at this prestigious event, the 55th running of which will take place this weekend.
Since turning pro in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series in 1995, Capps has collected 30 victories in 61 final rounds, while McCulloch since 1971 has earned 27 trophies as a crew chief and 22 as a driver. Despite their distinguished success in this dynamic sport, neither has been crowned a world champion.
As the pair enters this weekend's U.S. Nationals, each has a common goal of not only winning this event but of earning together the coveted Funny Car world championship which has eluded them both. The Countdown to 1 playoffs for the top 10 in points begin following this weekend's event for the final six races.
Capps, second in the standings, has an opportunity to regain the lead he had held throughout most of the season and garner the 20 bonus points awarded to the points leader entering the playoffs.
"Coming into this weekend our focus is actually off the Countdown," said Capps, who is 73 markers behind leader Tony Pedregon. "There's a chance we can take the points lead back, but probably not a chance that we can lose second place." Ashley Force Hood, in third, trails Capps by 91 points.
"We know where we're going to stand going into the Countdown, so we can go into this week's events and enjoy all the hype that precedes the U.S. Nationals and not worry about the Countdown and, in a way, be more relaxed.
"The other thing that will help is not having a bonus event to compete in this year," added Capps, who triumphed in three bonus events in his career at the U.S. Nationals, in 1988, '99 and '02. "That will change the approach for a lot of teams of how they use the five qualifying sessions. We will use the two runs on Sunday to prepare for the conditions during Monday's eliminations. Because of that, this weekend is going to be quite different for me than it has been in years past.
"It's nice to have Ed McCulloch as a mentor and crew chief. When you have a guy on your side who has won this race six times, you can't put a price on the amount of knowledge he has or the amount of experience he's had approaching this race and knowing how to get through what can be a long and grueling weekend.
"I've said it before: No matter where we end up qualifying, I always feel like we have a race car that can win on race-day morning, thanks to Ace.
"The longer my career goes the more I want to win the U.S. Nationals. You don't want to end your career without winning the U.S. Nationals. My mantle has a spot right in the middle waiting for that trophy."
Said Ed McCulloch: "The U.S Nationals at Indy is the biggest, oldest, most prestigious race. There's a lot of the newer generation who don't really know or understand the sentiments or what the race really, really is. They look it as just another race. But it’s history makes it a very, very important race to anybody who has been around for a while.
"I've been really successful at Indy, just not recently," added McCulloch, who's not won the U.S. Nationals as a crew chief. "And I would like to change that. Neither Ron nor I has ever won a championship, period. I can say one thing, if you have won a championship and you haven't won Indy, you haven't done it all.
"On the other hand, we still strive to win the championship. That’s first and foremost. But, if we could come out of Indy with the victory going into the Countdown, it would be a huge boost to our momentum. And it would be huge to be able to win Indy with Ron and as a crew chief.
"I've won it in a Funny Car, I've won it in a dragster. I would love to win it as Ron's crew chief in a Funny Car."
RON CAPPS QUICK FACTS:
* No. 2 in 2009 Funny Car points after winning class-best five in seven final rounds of the first 17 races of the season (Pomona, Calif., Phoenix, Las Vegas, Topeka, Denver)
* Is 73 points behind leader Tony Pedregon
* Round win-loss record in 2009 is 32-12
* Capps has never won the U.S. Nationals nor reached a final round
* Crew chief Ed McCulloch has won the U.S. National six times as a driver: Five in FC, one in TF (1971, '72, '80, '88 an '90 in FC; 1992 in TF)
* Qualified No. 11 in 2008 Indianapolis, lost first round to Melanie Troxel
* No. 8 in 2008 Funny Car points; two runner-up, five semifinal, four
quarterfinal finishes, 13 first-rounds
* 2008 round win-loss record was 20-24
* Is tied with Tony Pedregon with longest qualifying streak among active
Funny Car drivers: 56
* No. 4 in 2007 Funny Car point standings
* Led 2007 Funny Car point standings by as much as 154 points through 14 of the first 17 races of the season
* NAPA AUTO PARTS is primary sponsor for second straight season
* Joined Don Schumacher Racing in 2005
* Has three U.S. Smokeless Showdown titles: 1998, 1999 and 2002
* Third in 2006 final point standings
* Had class-best five wins in 2006
* Had three wins, four runner-up finishes in 2005 (St. Louis was his first win for DSR in '05)
* 2005 Funny Car championship runner-up, eight points short of title
* Qualified No. 1 once in 2005, in Dallas; first time since Brainerd 2000
* Has nine career No. 1 qualifiers, none in 2006, '07 or '08. Three in 2009 so far (Phoenix, St. Louis, Denver)
* A perennial fan favorite, Capps has driven and won in both Top Fuel and
Funny Cars since he began his pro NHRA career in 1995
* His best season points finishes were seconds in Funny Car in 1998, 2000 and 2005
* He has 30 event wins in 61 final rounds to his credit (29 national event wins in Funny Car, one in Top Fuel)
* His career-best elapsed time (established during an event) is 4.694
seconds, set in 2005 in Dallas
* His career-best speed is 331.61 mph (Pomona 1, '07)
* Capps' career round win-loss record is 365-267
* Capps' career record against 14-time champion Force is 21-41 in round wins. He's won 13 of the last 18 meetings against Force, and has won five of the last seven first-round match-ups over Force
* Age 44 (June 20, 1965); born and raised in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
* Lives in Carlsbad, Calif., with wife Shelley and daughter Taylor (7/25/96)
and son Caden (7/1/01)
* Has tested for IROC Series and competed in Skip Barber Formula Ford, Dirt Late Models, Mini-Sprints and Go-Karts
FRIDAY, Sept. 4 - PROFESSIONAL QUALIFYING SESSION at 5:30 p.m.
SATURDAY, Sept. 5 - PROFESSIONAL QUALIFYING SESSIONS at Noon and 5:45 p.m.
RINGERS GLOVES PRO BIKE BATTLE at 1:15 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 7:40 p.m.
SUNDAY, Sept. 6 - PROFESSIONAL QUALIFYING SESSIONS at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
MONDAY, Sept. 7 - Pre-race ceremonies, 9:30 a.m. FINAL ELIMINATIONS at 11 a.m.
Sunday, Sept. 6, ESPN2 HD will televise NHRA Race Day, a 30-minute magazine show at 11 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, Sept. 6, ESPN2 HD will televise two hours and 30 minutes of qualifying coverage at 11:30 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, Sept. 6, ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 5 p.m. (ET).
Monday, Sept. 7, ESPN2 HD will televise a special one hour NHRA Race Day from the U.S. Nationals at noon (ET). On Sept. 7, ESPN2 HD will also televise five hours of eliminations coverage at 1 p.m. (ET).
SATELLITE (Analog feed):
Friday, Sept. 4, 9:30 - 10 p.m. (ET) - AMC 15 / Transponder 6K (11820 MHz, horizontal)
Saturday, Sept. 5, 10 - 10:30 p.m. (ET) - AMC 15 / Transponder 6K (11820 MHz, horizontal)
Sunday, Sept. 6, 7:30 - 8 p.m. (ET) - AMC 15 / Transponder 6K (11820 MHz, horizontal)
Monday, Sept. 7, 6:30 - 7 p.m. (ET) - AMC 15 / Transponder 6K (11820 MHz, horizontal)