We're still kind of at the tail end of our family vacation that we've spent in our Monaco motor coach traveling around the country since Norwalk, Ohio (June 29), and on the way to Brainerd, Minn., for this weekend's NHRA race. We just left Pismo Beach in California, where we were for a week, and now we're driving over to Brainerd.
It's been very relaxing and a lot of fun, but you have to balance that with having to show up at the racetrack and race. And the one good thing with having the family with you is that it kind of feels like you're at home, like you're at a home track because your motor home is right there. You have home cooking and you have your family there every night, just a few minutes away, when qualifying or after the race.
Going to the Brainerd race is something that fans plan their whole lives around, and I think the last few years more and more racers have understood what goes on at Brainerd, and why they call the campground "the zoo." It's just an insane amount of people camping out and having fun.
I don't think they could ever get an accurate attendance number at Brainerd because of how many people there are camping, but I think it would probably surpass the spectator count of a lot of the tracks we go to.
And it's fun. A lot of us racers get on golf carts and go out there and see the fans at night, and we have a great time, but then you have to be focused to show up on Sunday and race.
The next couple of weeks are going to get hectic, with back-to-back races in Brainerd and Reading, Pa. And the entire NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car crew is going to be working hard. There's a lot of humidity expected in Brainerd for the crew chiefs to fight, and the drivers have been taught to make sure they stay hydrated. There are a lot of things to remember that you may take for granted.
Also, now that we're running to 1,000 feet it's completely changed everybody's mindset. I really believe the racing has been better. Obviously, it's been safer, but I think the fans are now understanding that changing the finish line to 1,000 feet was a great choice for the time being.
With three races left before the Countdown playoffs begin for the final six races of the season, we're in seventh place. While we just need to be in the top 10, we're not completely safe in that position.
Right now, we are focused on moving ourselves up the ladder within the top 10. If the NAPA team can stay on course and keep running as well as we have been lately, we can fight into the top five. Come Indianapolis (U.S. Nationals on Labor Day) you do not want to be teetering on the No. 9 or 10 spot because there is also the special Showdown bonus event -- which I have won three times -- that we have to run at Indy for a $100,000 prize.
So, there are a lot of things that can provide distractions if you let them. The NAPA team doesn't want to have to go into Indianapolis fighting to stay in the top 10. We'd like to go in there fighting to stay in the top five and then be able to be cheerleaders to help our Don Schumacher Racing Funny Car teammates Gary Scelzi, Jack Beckman (clinging to No. 10) and Jerry Toliver fight their way in the top 10.
Obviously, on the track not much has changed--except that we're racing to 1,000 feet--but away from the track there's so much going on.
On top of that we have the DRAW charity softball game coming up in Reading, Pa., where Scelzi's Superchargers--the team I was drafted by Scelzi to join--will battle Antron Brown's Burn Down Bombers (all NHRA pro drivers). Our first practice is Friday morning in Brainerd. That's another thing: Hopefully nobody gets hurt during the softball game or during practice. I think a lot of guys are going to be sore. Obviously, we haven't played a whole lot of softball lately.
It's the toughest part of the season, so we all need to focus on the final prize: our first Funny Car championship.
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.