This weekend's race in Reading, Pa., is the last event before the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis when the "Countdown to Four" kicks in for the drivers who make it into the top eight at Maple Grove Raceway. There's only one spot left in the Funny Car class, and there are a bunch of drivers who want to earn that place, so it's going to be very interesting this weekend.
Leading the points for the Countdown for as long as we have, we've been able to test some things during a race weekend, and to hold on to the points lead while you're testing is very hard to do. You expect to be able to lose a lot of ground in points testing, but we still seem to be hanging on. We've been as high as 154 points ahead, and now we're up by 75 after losing in the first round the last three races. And, believe me, that is not what we wanted to do.
We came to a conclusion in Brainerd last Sunday that although we've been testing all these different things, the car we brought out in Topeka as a new car was not quite right. Here we've been testing a lot of other things and Ace (crew chief Ed McCulloch) went back a few times to his normal setup and the car just wouldn't react. Looking back, it's funny. Ace and I sat down with Ronnie Thompson, our assistant crew chief, going over the runs. The car just didn't seem to drive the same from my vantage point, and Ace would make huge changes he never would have before, but the car still wasn't reacting.
So, after we lost in the first round in Brainerd, we decided we were going to pull out our backup car and start running it in Reading. That's part of being on the great Don Schumacher Racing team. We're going to put a brand-new car together, we're going to unload it in Reading and we expect that car to go right down the track on the first pass in qualifying.
I've always bragged about my Brut Dodge crew. There aren't a lot of crews out there that could put a car together like that and make the first run and have the confidence.
But, here's the problem: We've been testing a lot of things. If we confirm that the chassis we brought out in Topeka just wasn't the same as what we expected, it will kind of throw all our testing into a question mark. Ace may have to put all those testing results into another folder and file them away to try them another time.
I knew something was weird in Topeka. To not qualify, even with a new car, was strange. But I figured it was something new we were trying and it was OK as far as the new Countdown went. But, you look at our round wins since Topeka (7-for-32), and it's really been horrible.
We'll see how this new car reacts. I'm probably more excited than I've been in several races. It's been unfortunate that maybe we will not be able to use all the testing data we collected, but at the same time I feel like this is the time we need to get back on the track. I think all the guys are excited.
We'll run the Brut test body for this one race, then we'll go back to the blue Revolution body in Indy.
We've had a lot of stuff thrown at us this year with the Countdown and everything else the NHRA has come up with. One of the biggest changes was the schedule. This year we're going to Reading before Indy, and that just doesn't seem right. We're so used to going to Reading after Indianapolis, so it's kind of strange.
Reading has now become the last race where you can claim points for both the Skoal Showdown and the Countdown, and routinely that racetrack has had national records set at it. It's going to be warmer going there in August instead of September, and it's a very hard track for a driver because the groove is always very narrow. But it's a very, very fast track.
You always kind of reach down and pull your belts a little tighter at Maple Grove Raceway, and now that this race is before Indy it's taking on a whole new importance.
Wish us luck.
Ron Capps drives the Brut Revolution Dodge Funny Car in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series and is providing a diary for ESPN.com during the 2007 season.