As he aims for his first Funny Car championship this season, NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car points leader Ron Capps reflects on all the facets of that task, using history as an example.

The new Countdown to the Championship system actually rewards miscues, as the points for the top eight in the standings after 17 races will be reset to 10-point increments until the final two races, in which the top four will then compete for the crown in all four pro classes.

Capps and the Brut Dodge team, led by tuner Ed "Ace" McCulloch, took a gamble in Topeka, Kan., last week. Entering the event with a 121-point lead, the team experimented with new modifications and, with only three qualifying sessions available because of rain, failed to qualify for the first time since 2004.

As Capps and the Brut team approach this weekend's ninth round of the year, the Torco Racing Fuels Route 66 NHRA Nationals, they maintain their lead over Robert Hight, though it has diminished to 53 points.

"Our weekend in Chicago last year exemplifies this new Countdown system," says Capps, winner once at Route 66 Raceway, in 2005. "We had one of our most miserable weekends of racing as a team. It's a place where we won the year before, I've had great success there as a driver, Ace has had great success as a tuner. He won Top Fuel there beating the Army car when he was tuning Doug Herbert's car.

"Last year we were so happy when the day was over after we lost second round just to pack up and get out of there. We had oiled down almost every run. We had the weirdest stuff breaking that you would never, ever see break.

"We weren't even qualified until the last run and when we did get down the track it broke the pump on the rear end at the starting line. It oiled down from the starting line to the finish line, but it got us into the show. It was so bad we had to get rear-end oil out of the pit area to make the weight on the scales to be qualified.

"It was one of those weekends when after losing second round, Ace said, "Pack this stuff up, let's get out of Dodge," so to speak.

"So, now, looking back, you don't know what you're going to come to when you go to a race every year at the same track, whether you had success there or not.

"With the new Countdown system, if you can have 14 good races out of the 17 before you get to Indy (U.S. Nationals), odds are you're going to be one of the top eight. If you have eight great races and nine OK races, odds are you're going to be in the bottom half of that top eight, but you'll be in.

"It's going to be interesting to see the consistency that the teams are going to have, and Chicago is a place where I've had success and I've had miserable weekends. You can't take that for granted. We have one of the most consistent Funny Cars on the planet this year - and last year - and yet we didn't qualify in Topeka. It just tells you how difficult it is.

"The more Ace looks at what he did in Topeka, the more we feel very comfortable going to Chicago and unloading out of the trailer and running the same car. My Brut Dodge guys do such a great job that it's no big deal to put a new car together and go right down the track, and we usually do.

"I don't want to attribute our weekend in Topeka to the brand-new car. We brought it out a couple of weeks ahead of time because of the Bristol postponement, so going to a great track like Chicago with a very wide groove and a great surface will be a good place to go with a fresh car. I really feel comfortable about going straight there from Topeka."

NOTE: Information provided by Don Schumacher Racing

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