CARLSBAD, Calif. (March 9, 2010) – Although he's a veteran NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Funny Car racer, Ron Capps is still in awe of the historic NHRA Gatornationals. He's won this event two times since 1995, and, on the strength of the performance so far this season of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car team, he's aiming to make it a triple at this weekend's 41st annual event.
"The Gatornationals has always been a special race," said the California native who will drive the special NAPA Filters-bodied Dodge Charger this weekend. "It's among one of the biggest races on the NHRA circuit. More than anything else, it's considered the 'Winternationals' of the East Coast, because a lot of the corporate sponsors who are based on the East Coast, plus the fans who couldn't make it out to the first two races out West, always try to attend this race in Gainesville.
"It completely stuns me every year on Friday morning when I drive into the track and in those few miles before you even get to the track you see all these campers, with fans everywhere, and the parking lot is already filled up.
"It's a great time of year to be there; it's a great track. And being able to win the Gatornationals twice is amazing to me, because it's a race that a driver always wants to make sure he/she wins in his/her career.
"But it can also be tricky," added Capps, who is third in the class point standings after two events. "In March in Florida it could be 60 degrees one day and you turn around next morning and it could be 80 degrees, with a lot of humidity. It's a very challenging event as far as weather goes."
In the first two races of the season, Capps has scored one runner-up and one quarterfinal finish. "We had a decent start," he said. "I give the NAPA team a pretty high grade on the start. You can't compare it to last year because the NAPA team came out winning the first two races and had a chance to make it three in a row, but we didn’t.” Capps qualified sixth at the 2009 Gatornationals and was ousted in the opening round of eliminations.
"All you can ask for is that your team shows up at the track as a threat to win on any Sunday. If you can pull that off, then you're going to be a threat to win a championship.
"We have all the tools. We gave NAPA a great year last year and fell short of the championship," added Capps who earned a class-best five victories in 2009, ending the season third in points. He is still seeking his first Funny Car crown.
"So, we're going to go to Gainesville and try to win the race and Ace (crew chief Ed McCulloch) has instilled in me and the NAPA team that we're going to focus on one race at a time, like we did last year. If we can have the year we had last year, then we're going to have a good shot at the championship, and I think it all starts with the race in Gainesville."
While Capps has won the Gatornationals twice (2006 and 2007), his crew chief and former driver Ed McCulloch is a four-time Funny Car champion at this event (1972, 1986, 1989, 1990).
RON CAPPS QUICK FACTS:
FRIDAY, March 12 – FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at noon and 2:45 p.m.
SATURDAY, March 13 – FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at noon and 2:45 p.m.
SUNDAY, March 14 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m. FULL THROTTLE SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
SUNDAY, March 14, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at midnight (ET).
SUNDAY, March 14, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will re-air the two-hour qualifying highlights show at 10 a.m. (ET).
SUNDAY, March 14, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise NHRA Race Day, a 30-minute news magazine show, at noon (ET).
SUNDAY, March 14, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of coverage starting at 6 p.m. (ET).
FRIDAY, March 12, 7:30 - 8 p.m. (ET), AMC 6 / Transponder 21K (11920 MHz, vertical) (Analog feed)
SATURDAY, March 13, 7 - 7:30 p.m. (ET), AMC 6 / Transponder 21K (11920 MHz, vertical)
SUNDAY, March 14, 7 - 7:30 p.m. (ET), AMC 6 / Transponder 21K (11920 MHz, vertical)
Video news release contains race action highlights each day and winners’ interviews on Sunday.