Capps Test Track Surface at Concord, Waltrip the Wall As North Carolina residents, fans, NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series competitors and officials prepared for this weekend's inaugural NHRA Carolina Nationals at the all-new zMax Dragway, drag racer Ron Capps was challenged by NASCAR driver Michael Waltrip to a duel on the very same dragway.
Waltrip issued the challenge to his fellow NAPA AUTO PARTS racing partner to race down the quarter-mile at Bruton Smith's stunning facility to continue the pair's on-air rivalry and banter promoted in NAPA AUTO PARTS' clever ad campaign using the two racers with disparate racing backgrounds.
|Capps and Waltrip get ready to race.|
Photo: Traci Hultzapple - WMG
It was a heady experience for both, as neither had been down the new dragstrip touted as the "Bellagio" of drag racing. For Capps, because it was an all-new venue; for Waltrip because it's doubtful that he had ever been down a state-of-the-art dragstrip in a powerful car in his lifetime.
The track was clearly green as both drivers struggled to gain traction after launching following their burnouts. As the pair tore down the track, Waltrip's mount experienced some problems at the finish line, resulting in, surprisingly, his hitting the wall and damaging the front of the car. Although Waltrip may have been ahead, it turned into a very-loosely based case of the "Tortoise and the Hare," as Capps took the victory for all the non-existing laurels in his 500-hp dragster over Waltrip's Cup car pulled by 800 horses. The numbers: 9.85/115.14 for Capps, versus 11.21/79.38 for Waltrip.
Arriving with his fully race-functional NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry, Waltrip faced Capps driving an NHRA Super Comp dragster, owned by Charlotte's Tisha Wilson, in the pair's first head-to-head match-up on a racing surface.
Waltrip's NAPA crew quickly repaired the Toyota, and Capps was invited to drive it down the quarter-mile. He did so, in fine fashion, posting a run of 10.6 seconds at 140 mph.
The action was taped for a "NASCAR Now" show on ESPN2 and will be shared by the same network during the weekend's NHRA race coverage.
"It was a fun thing," said Capps, who enters this weekend's national event and the beginning of the Countdown to 1 playoffs in Concord No. 9 in the standings. "It was scheduled originally that we were going to do a little match race. It got so serious that Michael actually brought one of his real Cup cars. So we were trying to up him a little bit by getting a Super Comp dragster, because I didn't want to show up to a gunfight with a knife. And I didn't want to get beat by Michael at our own game.
"Knowing Michael, it was going to be fun no matter what, but we were both pretty serious about it. And it was going to be fun to go down the track at the new zMax Dragway.
"In Michael's defense, he gave it his all, but they hadn't sprayed the track (with traction compound) and both he and I were fighting for traction. I kept seeing him out the window and I was so surprised when I looked out the corner of my eye that he was still out in front of me. And I thought, Uh, oh, this car is fast over here, I'd better stay in the gas, and luckily I got by him because I think the excitement started happening over in his lane right when I went past him.
"When I came up the return road I saw him already parked back at the starting line. I thought, Well, that's strange, how did he get back to the starting line so quickly? And then I found out that he had fireworks going on in his lane.
"I haven't seen the footage yet, but apparently he was fighting for traction and got the thing sideways and actually clipped the wall. He hung on for a long time, and nobody really knew how hard I was fighting to keep mine straight until I came back and told everybody.
"It was funny to hear Michael talk about his burnout. He did this big burnout on his Cup car, and he did it pretty good. It would have impressed a lot of Pro Stock guys. And when I saw it, I said, Man, he's serious. And later he told me that when he did the burnout and as soon as he started smoking the tires through the water box, the car all of a sudden really hooked up and took off on the burnout and he thought, 'Whoa, this is really good traction, so I can just mash this thing during the run. Obviously, it didn't turn out so well, as they hadn't sprayed the track.
"After the incident he sent his NAPA team guys back over to the trailer to fix the front end damage on it. He wanted me to make a full-out run just to see what the Cup car would run. They got it fixed and I got in it and went 10.6 seconds at 140 mph. Pretty impressive considering they didn't change the gearing or anything for this. And it was a car that was a test car at an oval track just a few days before.
"The other funny part of this," added Capps, "was that when I got there my NAPA fire suit had gotten lost in shipping. I guess luckily or unluckily, Michael had a spare suit there and it became part of the fun. When we shot those NAPA commercials last year a lot of the joke in the reaction-time commercial was when he stood up and I stood up. He's about two feet taller than I am and it became very funny during the commercial shoot about how tall he was, compared to me. So, when I walked out of the trailer I had one of his suits on and it must have been a wacky site to see me with the cuffs curled up around my ankles. He's 6'5" and I'm 5'7".
"I'm ready to do it again...any time."