We've been singing the praises of the new Chevy Monte Carlo body since both Tommy Johnson and I debuted the new piece at Pomona back in February at the Winternationals, and we're finally seeing what an improvement the Monte Carlo is over the old Camaro body.
Last weekend at Houston Raceway Park, we recorded top speed of the event for the first time in my racing career. We've achieved a lot of accomplishments in NHRA drag racing, especially since joining Don Prudhomme Racing back in 1996, but we have never had top speed of a race. We owe that to the Monte Carlo body. We ran 312.71 mph during qualifying at Houston and that wouldn't have been possible had we been running last year's body. T.J. ran 311.20 and that was the second fastest speed in the Funny Car class, so our Snake Racing Funny Cars are making good horsepower.
When we got back from Houston, I did something that I haven't done for years -- went surfing. The weather has been so great in So Cal, so I finally decided to go. I live in Carlsbad, Calif., just a few miles from the ocean, so I think I'll be doing some more surfing this summer. I work out pretty often, but I definitely have a new respect for surfers. I was definitely sore the next morning. That didn't keep me away though. I was back in the water with my board two days later.
Last Thursday, Snake went to Talladega for the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame inductions where Shirley Muldowney and Bobby Rahal, among others, were inducted. Snake was inducted into the Hall back in 2000 and Larry Dixon and I were lucky enough to be there. Shirley is not only one of the greats of drag racing, but in all of motor sports. What she had to endure and what she accomplished on the track is amazing. She always has been a hero of mine and it's great that she's in the Motor Sports Hall.
We're heading to Bristol, Tenn., for the race at Thunder Valley this weekend. I won the first NHRA event at Bristol three years ago. I also had success there during the Winston Showdown event. That was a really cool deal for the fans when the Funny Cars raced against the Top Fuel dragsters in an all-star event. You had to win five rounds because it was a 32-car field. That was a really tough event to win.
I was runner-up to Cory McClenathan back in 2000. We were the No. 1 qualified Funny Car. Just getting to the final round was a big accomplishment. Just think of all the great names that were competing: John Force, Joe Amato, Dixon and Kenny Bernstein just to name a few. That's some stout competition.
I always look forward to going to Bristol. It's such a beautiful part of the country and the track might be the most scenic on the NHRA circuit. If you've never been to the Bristol race, you have to experience it. The drag strip is located right next to the oval track. That place should be listed in some sort of tourism guide as a must-see because it's awe-inspiring. Bristol Motor Speedway is some place. I would recommend to any fan that they need to go to the NHRA race at Bristol. It's one of my favorite tracks, right up there with IRP for the U.S. Nationals and the two Las Vegas races.
The performance of our Snake Racing Chevy Funny Car is starting to come around. I had my career-best speed two races ago at Vegas and like I said earlier, had top speed of the race for the first time in my career two weeks ago at Houston. My crew chiefs, John Stewart, Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler, are getting a handle on the setback blower combination and they're making a lot of horsepower, which is evident from our big speeds. I feel pretty confident that you'll be seeing Tommy Johnson and I going rounds on race day very soon.
Ron Capps drives a Funny Car in the NHRA for Don Prudhomme. He is providing a diary to ESPN.com throughout the 2004 season. The team's Web site can be found at www.snakeracing.com.