Thursday, September 11, 2008
Capps & Co. anxious to put on a show at Carolinas Nationals
By Ron Capps
Special to ESPN.com
This is already turning out to be an exciting week with the inaugural NHRA Carolinas Nationals at the new Bruton Smith-built zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C. On Tuesday, Michael Waltrip and I had a duel on the drag strip. He was in his NAPA Auto Parts Cup car and I was in a friend's Super Comp NHRA race car. It was filmed for "NASCAR Now" and our NHRA show on ESPN. You'll have to watch "NASCAR Now" on Thursday to see how it turned out.
And on Tuesday night, Bruton put on a great party at the drag strip for everyone involved. Many drivers and riders brought their own exotic cars and bikes for the "Run What You Brung" event. It was awesome. Kyle Busch was there and so was Kasey Kahne, among other sports stars.
We are very excited about going to the new track in Concord because obviously Bruton has built what we like to refer as some of the best drag racing tracks we have been on. The whole facility, just everything about it is first-class, and going into a new marketing area like we are, and the hoopla that's already surrounding the event can only mean great things for this sport.
Deep down -- and you can ask anybody, whether it's a driver, owner or a crew chief -- everybody really wants to put on a good show. Not that we don't put on a good show every other time. But when somebody builds a track like this, as Bruton has done, it really tells you how good our sport is right now. We'd like to pay him back by putting on the best show ever. And it's exciting.
There are other events happening this week, but we will have to start focusing on this first race of six of the Countdown to 1 playoffs this weekend. This is what it's all about. This is what we've all been waiting for, what we've all been fighting to stay in the top 10 for.
On the NAPA team we have been experimenting with some parts. Last year we were leading the points going into the Countdown and we learned a valuable lesson that you can't peak at that time of the season. You have to wait for the Countdown to start and get into the playoffs mode.
We're excited. Even though our results haven't shown how strong our NAPA Dodge is, believe me, Ace -- my crew chief, Ed McCulloch -- is going to have his race face on come Concord. This is what really gets those competitive juices flowing, when you think about what this Countdown entails.
And, more than anything, I think you're going to see a lot of teams looking at the sheets after qualifying to see if by chance they are matched up against another team in the Countdown or a team that is not in the Countdown. There will also be teammates facing teammates. There's a lot of variables coming up.
We're looking forward to all of the above. It's going to be an exciting time.
Obviously, Concord is pivotal. We starting a little bit in the hole pointswise, and after last year, we learned that things can change very quickly. You want to get off on the right foot, and everyone on our NAPA team has kind of sacrificed a little bit of the results in the last handful of races because we wanted to try some things that we knew would help us during the Countdown.
At the same time we had to make sure we got into it. In ninth place is not where we wanted to be. We wanted to be higher, but I think learning what we learned the last few races will more than make up those points to get us right up to the top.
It's the old story: You can't win it unless you're in it. And this is something that everybody has worked all year to get into, and now you're into it and you have to focus on every single run. It's always important, but even more important now. There are a lot of scenarios that are going to play out during this Countdown. I think the few people who questioned the Countdown when it first came out will have their minds changed.
The excitement of the Countdown and everything it brings is more than just a thrill for the drivers. I think the fans are going to love it.
Ron Capps drives the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series and is providing a diary for ESPN.com during the 2008 season.