It's been a tough season for us so far. We went out in the first round of eliminations in each of the first three national events, but it's still early, and if we three-peat in the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge at the NHRA Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park this weekend after winning there the past two years, we could move up toward the front.
We've gotten a little bit spoiled with the success we've had the past three years. Usually at this point in the season, we're leading the points, or at least we were the past two seasons. I think we've really had to work a little more on everything this year. It has just been a strange beginning to the season. And the rainouts we had in the sessions of Friday qualifying at Phoenix and Gainesville completely changed those weekends for all the teams.
We're looking forward to going to Houston. Hopefully we'll get more than just two runs of qualifying in. When you're this far out of the points lead, you go up earlier in the session to qualify, which means you don't get to watch as many good cars in front of you to see what the track's doing, so that's a little bit of a disadvantage.
We stayed after the races and tested in Gainesville. I drove my car and my teammate Gary Scelzi's car. It was good for me personally to get more laps in, and I think Ace -- my crew chief, Ed McCulloch -- was really working on making the car a better car for down the road. I still feel like we could be leading when we get to Indy on Labor Day weekend, after which the Countdown to One begins. I'm not even looking at getting into the Countdown; I'm looking at leading the points and grabbing any extra points. We just need a good weekend in Houston to get back on track and get some laps under our belts.
We definitely have had success in the past at Houston. But until this year, we had won two years in a row at Gainesville, too. Those past wins at Houston were huge. However, you can't take anything from that. The cars this year are completely different, with the 90 percent nitro and the addition of 100 pounds of weight. We're all hoping we'll get more than just two laps of qualifying in.
Houston always is a tough track to drive because the groove is so tricky. It's a great track, and the Angel family always has done whatever it takes to make the facility as good as possible, as we saw with the news release they just put out, with the addition of the highway off-ramp right into the track for the fans. I know there have been times when I was driving to the track and there were people who didn't make the first round because they were stuck in traffic.
Houston always draws a huge crowd, and it's just a great facility. Unfortunately, we're there at the time of the year when rain is prevalent. The track is only 10 feet above sea level, and if it rains ahead of time and the sun comes out, there is a possibility of water seeping up through the surface.
I really love the place. I've always done well there. The fact that we've won there twice is just icing on the cake.
We just need to get some rounds in. We have run into some guys who have taken some great shots at us and knocked us out. I talked about it before. Where you qualify plays into it, as well as having a little bit of luck. And it's funny. When you look back at the first round we lost in Gainesville, it's probably a pretty good thing we didn't make a full run. It could have been pretty disastrous when shutting down at the other end of the track, since Cruz Pedregon's car exploded, sending it into the other lane at the finish line.
Like I've told everybody on the NAPA crew, it always could be worse. No matter the situation, things always could be worse. And we have it pretty darned good right now. And we have a car that can win at any time.
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.