Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NHRA [Print without images]

Friday, August 5, 2011
Ron Capps calls track unsafe for fans

By Terry Blount
ESPN.com

KENT, Wash. -- Funny Car driver Ron Capps said track conditions at Pacific Raceways are "dangerous and an embarrassment for fans" at the NHRA Northwest Nationals this weekend.

Capps, coming off a victory last weekend at Sonoma, Calif., said the track needs to be resurfaced to reach acceptable professional drag racing standards.

"I hate to be the guy, but somebody has to step up and talk about this," Capps said the first round of qualifying Friday. "This is one of my favorite places to come. I got my first win here and I love the Pacific Northwest. The fans are great, but this is an embarrassment for the fans. They have to completely resurface the track.

"We didn't see a single side-by-side pass in that [first] round. Only two cars made it down under power in Funny Car. It should have been awesome in these [cool and cloudy] conditions. We should have seen tracks records."

Only two Funny Cars made a full pass in the second round Friday. Robert Hight had a tire come apart on his burnout before his attempt at a second-round qualifying pass.

Capps tweeted after the first round about the problems with the racing surface: "It's pretty bad when there are pieces of the track on your tires after the burnouts."

"It's unfortunate," Capps said later. "We got back and lifted the body and the front tires were covered in [pieces of asphalt]. I've never seen the track peel up like that."

This is not a new issue. The Pro Stock drivers threatened the boycott during qualifying last year at Pacific Raceways because they felt the track wasn't safe, but cooler heads prevailed before Sunday's final eliminations.

"Every year, two weeks before we come here we hear they are going to fix the track before next season, but nothing happens," Capps said. "It's like everybody just forgets about it because we all love coming here.

"The only time something got done was years ago when Whit Bazemore said the track bumps were so bad it had to be fixed. He got fined, but they fixed the bumps."

Capps is a driver representative on the board of directors for PRO (Professional Racers Organization), the team owners group of the NHRA.

Capps said he plans to talk to PRO president Kenny Bernstein about the track problems, hoping PRO will back his request of a track resurfacing. Capps expects Bernstein to talk to Graham Light, the NHRA's senior vice president of racing operations for the NHRA.

"One thing I want to say is Graham Light has been very proactive about getting things done when we go to him," Capps said. "He listens to our concerns. I sent Graham a snarky text after that round, but I'm sure he's as upset about it as I am."

Not every driver is as upset about the track as Capps, including NHRA Funny Car legend John Force, who was the No. 1 qualifier Friday.

"Ron is a good man, but everybody right now is suffering in a tough financial deal," Force said. "In this economy, you can't ask a track to spend that much money."

Larry Dixon, the NHRA 2010 champion in Top Fuel, said he will leave the politics to others.

"That's not my issue," Dixon said. "That's an owners' issue. I trust my equipment and my team. If I have to worry about track conditions for my safety, I'm in trouble."

Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher, a seven-time champion and Capps' teammates at Don Schumacher Racing, said he supports Capps.

"Ron is our representative and he takes this stuff seriously," Tony Schumacher said. "They need to do something. Nobody wants to see a one-lane race."

It's not the competition between drivers that concerns Capps.

"It really isn't about performance," he said. "It's a safety issue. Who's to say if the cars that do get down the track don't drop all that track stuff off their tires at the top end? It's dangerous."

Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com.