Close race benefits everyone involved

It's exciting at this point of the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car season, especially coming up to this weekend in Memphis, Tenn. The NHRA changed the schedule around a couple of years ago and put this race before the prestigious U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis on Labor Day. It used to be after Indy.

The Memphis race will be sort of in the night because qualifying is after 4 o'clock and final eliminations begin at 3 p.m. on Sunday.

You sort of gauge your season at this stage as to where you'll be when you get to Indy, which is our big race. And now coming into Memphis, we're not just fourth in points but we're just a couple of rounds out of the championship. Having 13-time champion John Force right in front of me in third just 23 points ahead may be a surprise, but it's certainly exciting.

It's exciting for everybody on the Brut Dodge team, it's exciting for our
sponsors, but mostly it's exciting for the fans. Five, six, seven years ago, John Force would sometimes have the season wrapped up by what used to be the Memphis race, later in the year.

That got quite boring for the fans, having somebody just run away with the championship. So, to have a title chase this close and this thrilling is awesome, and I think it shows in how the fans are reacting.

I've had the luxury to have been in a championship chase with Force a couple of times in my nine years of driving. You can't explain how it feels. You get enough pressure when you drive these cars, you get enough excitement, you have enough things to deal with besides just driving the car down the track, and when you have yourself in a championship chase like this to say there's no added pressure would be ridiculous, of course.

But at the same time I believe the person who wants to do this for a living, who wants to work on a Funny Car, or Top Fuel Dragster, a person who wants to drive one, dreams of being in this position and dreams of the pressure that comes along with being in a chase for a championship.

Years down the road from now, to be able to look back and say that we were in a championship chase with John Force in his prime is another thing. There are a lot of great memories and history that will surround you when you're older besides just remembering showing up at the track and actually being in the points chase.

Yes, the pressure is there. I was throwing up before first round the last
couple of races. It's not something I normally do, but when you see the
points leader go out ahead of you (Rober Hight), you know you could make up points by winning that round, besides just wanting to win that round on a normal basis and trying to go rounds and win the race for your sponsors and do the normal stuff. It takes its toll.

I know that the guys on the Brut team are excited about going for this
championship. One of the guys had worked on Tony Schumacher's championship car, but I don't believe anyone else has been on in the middle of this kind of championship, except probably for Ace (crew chief Ed McCulloch) when he was a driver. These guys are totally amped up.

Basically, it comes down to having a good leader and that's what we have in Ace. Right now he's battling health problems, but, you know what? Right now it couldn't be better.

Ron Capps drives a Funny Car in the NHRA for Don Schumacher Racing. He is providing a diary to ESPN.com throughout the 2005 season.