Capps: Busy stretch ahead

The last race at Bristol was sure an interesting weekend. It was nice and warm the first few days, then on Sunday, it poured all day long. When it looked like we were finally going to get the race started after the storm had blown through, it began to sprinkle again. Figures doesn't it? Just when the NHRA Safety Safari has the track clean and dry, the rain comes back. It seems like rain continually follows the NHRA circuit.

After we were done racing on Monday at Bristol, we spent the next two days in Dallas visiting with sponsors at their annual sales meetings. That was a really cool experience. Snake, Tommy Johnson and I got to visit with the company employees and had the chance to meet some of the best rodeo cowboys in the world. They're some pretty cool dudes.

Ty Murray is arguably the baddest rodeo cowboy ever. He's like the John Force of bull riding and steer roping. He's retired, but still a major player in the PBR -- Professional Bull Riders. Ty won seven major championships in his day. He's dating Jewel. It was really fun to spend some time with both Ty and Jewel to get to know them better. She has such a beautiful voice. She's on tour right now and when she comes to San Diego, Snake and I are definitely going to the show.

A few of the other cowboys we got to meet and hang out with were Justin McBride, Ross Coleman, Jesse Bail, Cody DeMers and Trevor Brazile. I really respect what those guys do. Some say us drag racers are crazy to climb into an 8,000 horsepower Funny Car that accelerates from zero to 100 mph in less than one second and exceeds 320 mph in the quarter mile, but I've got on a fire suit, HANS device and I'm strapped in with a six-point harness, not to mention all the other protective gear I wear. Those guys ride a 2,000 pound wild bull. At least I have a helmet on. I think they're way more daring than I am. I've been on a mechanical bull before, but I don't know if you could ever get me on a wild bull in front of thousands of people at a jam-packed arena.

The same weekend we're in Las Vegas for the ACDelco Nationals -- Oct. 28-31 -- the PBR also is in town. I'm really looking forward to that. Ty and the guys can come hang out at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway during the day, and then we can all head over to the Thomas & Mack Center for the big PBR event at night. It should be neat to see my new friends battle those monstrous bulls on the Vegas stage.

During our meetings, I also got to meet a longtime hero of mine, Walt Garrison. Walt used to play professional football, and then became a big rodeo star. He's a great guy, really funny. Man, can he tell some stories. He's quite a character.

Another guy I'm really good friends with is NASCAR Nextel Cup star Jimmie Johnson. We talk on a pretty frequent basis. If one of us has a good weekend at the track, the other guy has to call and congratulate him. That's a little game we have. Jimmie has been running really well, so my phone bill has been a little bigger than normal lately. I'm hoping when I pick up my cell phone next Monday that Jimmie will be calling me this time.

We're 12 weeks into the 2004 NHRA season and we've only completed six races. We have six races in the next seven weeks. Talk about a grueling stretch. That's going to be really tough on the race crews. These next seven weeks can make or break your season. We might only be in 13th place in the Funny Car standings heading into the Atlanta race this weekend, but if we reel off a few wins and some semifinal finishes, we can be a major player for the rest of the season. We're only 12 rounds out of the lead, so if we start going some rounds on race day and make clean runs with no oil down penalties, there is no reason why we can't vault ourselves into the thick of the championship hunt. We have an experienced crew with talented people that can make our Snake Racing Funny Cars go very fast and tough to beat.

Having Tommy Johnson Jr. and his Snake Racing Chevy Funny Car just a few feet away is such a bonus for our car. Fielding two cars is so important because we can share information and try different things and if something works on TJ's car, they can apply that to my car. Tommy has made a full pass on nine of his past 10 passes going back to the Houston race in mid-April. They have a really consistent car and should be going a lot of rounds in the near future. In the first round at Bristol, TJ ran low elapsed time of the round (4.799 seconds) and clocked a career-best speed (323.97 mph). Like I've said a million times, the new Monte Carlo body is such a pleasure to drive and the additional downforce is allowing our Snake Racing Funny Cars to post some pretty mean speeds. The forecast calls for some pretty warm temperatures in Atlanta this weekend, so the added downforce should really help our performance on what could be a hot, tricky race track.

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.