This weekend we are in Sonoma, Calif., at Infineon Raceway for the final leg of the Western Swing, and we're coming off a runner-up finish in Seattle. The weekend in Seattle turned out pretty good for us, even though we lost to Tony Bartone in our (and his!) first final round of the season. Tony won his first ever race in the pro Funny Car class. So, I'm going to talk a little bit about Seattle before I get to what we're expecting in Sonoma.
Tony Bartone is one of those guys, much like Scott Kalitta was, whom you secretly pulled for if you weren't able to win.
And team owner Jim Dunn's been around forever. I watched him as a kid and he's a very, very tricky guy on a treacherous track. And that's what Pacific Raceways was on Sunday. It was very warm, it was 130-plus degrees on the track and Jim Dunn sat out all day Saturday without running the qualifying sessions and then ran all those great elapsed times on Sunday.
We did not take them lightly, believe me. After Bartone won, he actually gave me a big hug at the end of the track.
Bartone also had problems on the track. We both lost traction, and he recovered first and came out ahead. There has always been a mutual respect between Tony, his team, me and our team. I know that feeling of winning your first race and we talked a little bit about it at the other end. He was ecstatic, and it's such a relief for the guy, and it's good to see. It's great to see the guys who are on teams that are somewhat underfunded and guys who are out there doing this on their own, like Gary Densham and Tony Bartone, doing well. It's good those guys get a taste of victory once in a while.
And then my friend Del Worsham almost took me out in the first round with a perfect light. He actually left at .000 (which is absolutely perfect, but also a little bit risky as it is almost a red light). We spent the whole week before the Seattle race in Couer d'Alene with our families in our motor homes and I said, "Hey, what kind of friend does that to you?" I thought, "Oh, man," but we got through it.
After not qualifying so well, in 15th, it was a heck of a comeback by Ace (crew chief Ed McCulloch) and our NAPA guys because we knew it would be warm on Sunday. If we could get into the show we could win from anywhere. My guys kept telling me, "Remember, we won Englishtown a couple of years ago from the 15th position." So they had a good outlook on it. We just felt good.
I have to really thank NHRA, and especially Pacific Raceways and the Safety Safari. Guys were running great ETs in both lanes and that's hard to come by. And racing to 1,000 feet worked well there. The day went by quickly with no oildowns. If we keep this up we may go to live TV sometime soon. That's something that we all look forward to and I think this really helped that out. And the fans sitting in the grandstands saw a great show on Sunday.
Much of the story in Seattle was about all the guys on the edge in the points standings, like my teammates Gary Scelzi (in 13th) and Jack Beckman (10th). Of course, we want them in the Countdown to the Championship, but we need to focus on getting deeper in the field ourselves.
We gained a little bit more room in Seattle and we're now in sixth place. Believe me, we don't want to go to Reading, let alone Brainerd, and start thinking about what we need to do to get in the Countdown. So, Seattle was a great points weekend. And we went around John Force, who didn't qualify, and that was huge.
Now we're going to one of my favorite places in Sonoma -- the area where I grew up. We're coming from Seattle, a place where I won my first race in 1995, so I feel a lot of good mojo heading into Infineon. It feels good to roll into Sonoma with this kind of momentum after a great weekend in Seattle.
The Sonoma area is a special place for me. It's where I lived for a long while, I met my wife up there and I see a lot of friends and family. I have to get a lot of tickets for them for the weekend. And it's so worth it when you go to a place like that.
The people at Infineon are terrific. Track owner Bruton Smith obviously built a great track. Everything is first class, including where we park our Monaco coach up on the hill. Where the drivers' motor homes are parked you have a great view of the track and the whole valley below you.
I have my family with me on the road: my wife Shelley and daughter Taylor and son Caden. We know the track and the racing are going to be good, but it's also all the things around the area that we can do with the family that makes it a great racetrack.
I've been able to win in Sonoma in the past. We came close to winning in Seattle, so we're hoping to do it for NAPA this weekend.
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.