CONCORD, N.C., April 12, 2011 – The combination of a redesigned "Christmas tree," a great test session and the experience from participating in the first four-wide drag race last year means Ron Capps comes into this week's 2nd annual VisitMyrtleBeach.com NHRA 4-Wide Nationals here at zMAX Dragway in a positive frame of mind.
"I'm really excited and don't have the apprehension I had last year," said the driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car. "We've done the four-wide race once, getting to the third - and final - round, and the NHRA has made it better for the drivers by improving on one of the major problems with this configuration - staging.
"Graham Light has worked hard to improve the Christmas tree and thus improve the staging process. Staging was an issue at last year's inaugural four-wide race for a lot of us and I think the changes to the tree, and having one under our belts, will make this a much better race."
The new tree features four blue (not yellow, as in the past) staging lights to represent each lane. Pre-staging turns on the top half of the bulbs; when the cars are fully staged, the entire bulb is lit.
"I think the drivers will adapt to the new setup quickly; Graham even brought a prototype of the tree to the Gainesville race earlier this year to give us a heads up," he said. "Last year, most of the apprehension was about staging. The old tree was confusing; this new one should simplify matters and reduce concerns."
Not a major concern following a solid post-Las Vegas-race test session is the NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car.
"We had a great day of testing on Monday," said the Southern California native. "I feel really comfortable going into this race in this car.
"We've had an up and down early season, including a semifinal round in Pomona, but I think we did a few things during the test which will yield good results in this race and in those to come."
Capps heads to North Carolina holding seventh place in the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car championship standings, but does not feel championship points are the issue at this time.
"At this stage of the season, you are trying to win races," he said. "Points are not that important yet. When you get closer to Indy (the last event in the regular season), they matter more because it would be nice to be near the top (the top 10 regular-season drivers make the Countdown to 1 playoffs). But even then it's not critical, because we have seen the championship won from virtually any place.
"I really want to make that phone call from the winner's circle to Atlanta, home of NAPA AUTO PARTS. They're a great supporter of our efforts and I really want to give everyone associated with them a win."
FRIDAY, April 15 - Full Throttle Series nitro qualifying 2 and 4:30 p.m. EDT
SATURDAY, April 16 - Full Throttle Series nitro qualifying noon and 2:30 p.m. EDT
SUNDAY, April 17 - Pre-race ceremonies 11 a.m.; Full Throttle Series eliminations begin at noon EDT
Saturday, April 16, ESPN2/ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualification highlights 6-8 p.m. EDT
Sunday, April 17 ESPN2/ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage 7-10 p.m. EDT
UNOFFICIAL FUNNY CAR POINT STANDINGS after the third of 16 races in the "regular" season: