Capps hopes a change will do the NAPA squad good. (NHRA photo)
This weekend's NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio, is going to be one of the bigger races in my career. Not because it is the first race of the Countdown, because it's not, or even the last race of the year, which it isn't. This race is going to be so different for me not having Ed “Ace” McCulloch as my crew chief. Instead, it will be the first race in which John Medlen will be the one pointing at me into the windshield before I make a run.
After the race last weekend in Bristol, Tenn., where we lost in the first round, team owner Don Schumacher made a decision to move Medlen from my teammate Matt Hagan's DieHard team to take over as crew chief on the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Funny Car team. Ace is going to stay at DSR as a consultant among the three Funny Car teams, and that's a good thing for all of us.
Norwalk is going to be an emotional race, but you have to put all that aside and focus on what's going on right now in our 2010 season. We've obviously slipped a little bit in the points and fell to seventh, and there are only five races left before the Countdown to 1 playoffs start and that's when reality starts to hit. We saw the drama last year that unfolded in the last race of the regular season when there was only one spot left in the top 10 and there were several drivers trying to get into it.
Our NAPA team is way too good of a team to be focused on that part of it. We have great people, and when you go through a change like we are starting in Norwalk, it's tough. At times it feels a little personal, but you have to ignore that and think about the business side of it.
The first thing that I think of is my NAPA crew guys. As a core team they have essentially been with me since 2005 when I came on with DSR, with the Brut car. They've been the same guys who have fought as a team to win a championship and the same guys who have had several chances offered them to go to other teams – and they chose to stick together as a team.
This is when you really learn a lot about your crew, when you struggle like we have the last few races. There was never a doubt in anybody's mind about the crew's ability to do a great job. When you're going to three or four races in a row, you spend more time with the crew guys than you do with your family, and so you learn to fight the fight together for one common goal. And, to be honest with you, it's going to be fun to work our way back to the top.
We know that if we get into the Countdown we are as good as any other team out there, and as capable, if not more, as any competitor out there. It all comes down to confidence. With the Countdown being six races, you obviously have to peak at the right time. But, when you're in the middle of the summer months of racing, like we are going into Norwalk this weekend, there's nothing better than having the confidence in your crew when the track conditions can be so tricky.
Drivers who have won championships in the past have talked about how they dug down deep, and you can talk that talk all you want. But what matters is the confidence you have as a driver. When you have confidence that your car is going to go down the track and it's going to be a tough car to beat, you feel like you can pretty much beat anybody in the cockpit. And that's what we're striving for. We're striving to have that confidence throughout the whole team.
One great thing is that DSR has such a great support system that having Ed McCulloch stay on board and work with all the Funny Car teams as well as for the NAPA team, will only make everybody better.
I was very close to Eric Medlen, who lost his life in a testing accident in 2007 in Gainesville, Fla., and I've gotten to know his dad John pretty well, even more so when he came aboard at DSR. It's going to be an emotional thing after all those years watching John point his finger at his son Eric before he made a run and now having the same guy point at me before I make a run. It's going to be very special.