CAPPS' VEGAS EFFORT NETS HIM A QUARTERFINAL FINISH


Ron Capps saw his hopes of winning his first Funny Car championship in the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Funny Car virtually dashed today after bowing out in the quarterfinal round of the ninth annual NHRA Las Vegas Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

After defeating Gary Densham in the opening stanza with a strong 4.130-second pass at 305.08 mph, the No. 2 qualifier faced perennial Funny Car frontrunner Tim Wilkerson in the second round. Capps staged shallow hoping to maintain a hold on lane choice throughout the event, posting a .104 reaction time to Wilkerson's .096 (.000 is perfect). The pair ran side by side to the finish, until Wilkerson edged out Capps by 12 inches with a 4.163/301.40 pass to Capps' losing 4.157/303.78.

With that result, plus Robert Hight winning the event, and his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman reaching the final round, Capps slipped to fifth place in the Countdown to 1 playoffs and is now 114 points behind leader Hight, as the series moves to the season finale in Pomona, Calif., Nov. 12-15.

"We kind of put ourselves in a position where we got a little behind and I was really looking forward to today," said Capps. "I really felt great, not just because we ran the 4.04 on Friday night (to qualify No. 2), but I just knew that Ace (crew chief Ed McCulloch) had a good handle on the car with the temperature rising today. And, being the warmest day of the weekend, he emphasized to me the importance of keeping lane choice all day today.

"We liked that right lane. It was a great drag race. You give it your best and there's nothing more you can do. The unfortunate part is obviously your emotions are heightened by this being the second-to-last race and you really have to put yourself in position going into Pomona to have a decent chance at it. And that's probably gone now.

"But, I think Ace made a great call. It was the hottest part of the day, it was 106 degrees on the track, and we knew Tim was going to be tough. He demands your respect. Ace, sitting at the computer, turned around and said to me, Man, you just don't know what Tim's going to run. He's going to be tough.

"It seems like we're tested every run by the competition this year. Sometimes you get frustrated because there are guys who seem to have a horseshoe following them around. And they may smoke the tires or run terrible and the guy next to him runs worse. And we end up having to run the guy who's the quickest of the round.

"That's the way it goes. Based on the results of the other rounds, had we not run Wilkerson we probably would have won.

"This one hurts, and it's going to hurt for a few days, for sure. What can you do? I gave it my best, that's all you can do."

UNOFFICIAL FUNNY CAR POINT STANDINGS, after 23 of 24 season events:
1. Robert Hight, 2485 (winner today)
2. Ashley Force Hood, 2380
3. Tony Pedregon, 2372
4. Jack Beckman, 2371 (runner-up today)
5. Ron Capps, 2358
6. Tim Wilkerson, 2353
7. Del Worsham, 2299
8. Bob Tasca III, 2294
9. John Force, 2268
10. Mike Neff, 2235
11. Cruz Pedregon, 1034
12. Matt Hagan, 1020