EXCLUSIVE: Ron Capps’ diary
It’s a privilege to be writing for the Web site of such a great racing magazine like RACER. I have always subscribed to it and it’s not just another auto racing magazine. Anything and everything I’ve ever wanted to know about the world of motorsports I find in the interesting behind-the-scene features in RACER. It is such a diverse magazine and the photography is awesome. So, now, to be contributing to it is pretty neat.
We’re leading the points right now with our NAPA Auto Parts team, and we’ve been the points leader since the get-go, when we won Pomona at the beginning of the year. I would have thought that, as good as our NAPA team is, our crew chief Ed “Ace” McCulloch would have possibly waited longer to use any test dates since we’re doing so well right now.
But it shows the grit of our team. As well as we’re doing we’re trying to do better and we’re trying to make a step to the next level of our tune-up and stay ahead of our competition. With that being said, we’ve already used up two of our dates and here we are only in May. So, it’s going to be interesting to see how many days other teams have left.
I also think it’s important to note that when you watch our sport on ESPN2 on Saturdays and see the qualifying show, you may not realize that a lot of teams are having to test things during the four qualifying rounds we’re allotted – and that’s where it becomes tricky.
When you have to try to get your car qualified high in the 16-car field and at the same time try to test something on the car, it becomes very stressful. Remember, we don’t have a continuing run of laps in these cars. We have only four qualifying runs in a weekend and then it’s four rounds of eliminations on race day, if you’re lucky. It also takes a while to rebuild the car between each run. I think the best thing for a team to do is to come out Friday in the first round of qualifying and get a good run in so you’re deep in the show. You know you’re qualified well, and then on Saturday during qualifying you bring out the things you want to test.
Then the trick is to make sure you go back to what your good setup is for Sunday’s race day. There are a lot of little things going on with different teams as far as their approach to testing is concerned. And whether they’re going to use their credits up or whether they’re going to try and test mostly at the races.
When you’re talking about only 10 teams being part of the Countdown you can look at the list and count 16 teams that should be in the Countdown right off the bat. So, there are going to be five or six very high-profile teams that won’t be part of that Countdown. And that in itself is going to be a surprise.
In the past there were probably 10 or 15 times that we would test throughout the year. So, this is a huge setback for a lot of teams that may need runs and may need to figure out their tune-up. With these cars, everything has to be perfect for the car to go four seconds at 330 mph. And sometimes things go wrong and it could take a crew chief five, six, seven, even eight runs, to figure out what the problem is.
If you’re a crew chief and you have a problem and you’re fighting a bug in the car and you can’t figure it out and you’re in the middle of a race, let alone between two races, there’s no way to figure it out other than putting the car on the track and testing it.
In other motorsports, like in NASCAR, they can actually put an engine on a dyno and simulate it running 500 miles at Daytona or Martinsville. In Formula 1, the same thing. They can simulate that car running a race in Barcelona or Monaco. So, the only way to figure things out in the sport of NHRA drag racing with these nitromethane-fueled cars is to get on the track. There’s no dyno in the world that will hold a 9000-horsepower engine.
The bottom line is there’s nothing you can do to run better or to figure out a tune-up or even figure out a problem other than putting our cars on the track and making runs.
I certainly hope I helped educate some fans about this dynamic sport of NHRA drag racing, and you’ll be hearing again from me soon.