NHRA Funny Car driver Ron Capps is doing a little scoreboard watching as he enters the final phases of the drag racing trail. It’s not for his favorite football team but for his favorite International Race of Champions official. Capps has had tests with the NASCAR and Indycar drivers of IROC and he’s come away enough positive feed back to be considered a serious candidate for IROC next year. He’d be the first ever fulltime drag racer to get an invitation.

That, of course, depends on whether there’ll be an IROC next year. Series sponsor True Value finished it’s commitments to IROC this year and has said it won’t be back. You can imagine that IROC with no money isn’t a pretty sight!

Considering that everything works out on that end, is Ron Capps ready to step into a world of left turns at the end of the quarter mile? He talked about his visits to the dark side of the NASCAR world within IROC while waiting out the rain at Indy last week.

“When it came down to it, not one of those guys, I mean a guy that I thought – Tony Stewart’s a friend and Earnhardt, Jr., all those guys I thought would have a set of gonads between their legs – they won’t do it. They don’t even want to get in a dragster. They don’t want to get in a Funny Car. They think we’re crazy. That’s a compliment to me. It really is because it tells you about our sport and how exciting it is.

"When I showed up, one of the first words out of their mouths, Mark Martin even, they said they’d been watching the races. They remembered this and that. It made my hair stand up that they’d get in their haulers or their coaches afterwards and, basically, look for drag racing to watch."

It is a fraternity of drivers isn’t it? It’s not just drag racers and stock car drivers and open wheel drivers. A lot of drivers look at themselves and understand they’re part of a group that’s been able to accomplish a lot in their chosen field. They have that in common. Especially if you’re in an IROC camp you’re talking about guys who’ve excelled at whatever they’ve tried to do.

“It’s the best of the best. People have no idea. Those in car camera shots at the NASCAR races, you think you’d get an idea of what it’s like to drive a Winston Cup car. You have no idea. The lateral G forces going into a turn at Talladega like I was at 180, the thing wants to throw you out the side of the car. I had no idea it was like that. It’s so much harder in person.

“I have so much more credit to give those guys. I kind of thought they just went out there and drove around but it was really an eye opener. Those guys think I’m crazy but I’m out there doing what I can do and here comes a guy like Jimmie Johnson two feet from my door on the outside of me on a track like Chicago where there is no outside groove. I’m thinking if I was up there I’d be in the wall. And he goes around me. It just tells me how good they are.”

That seems a bit crazy. You experience five Gs on launch and negative five Gs when you throw the parachute. I would think you’d be used to that. I guess back and forth is different that side to side when it comes to G forces.

“It’s just different. When I’m over there they say ‘you should be used to this. You go 320 and here you’re only going 180 when you throw it into a corner. And, yeah, they’re right to a certain extent. But when you go into a corner the G forces want to throw you outside the car, you’re concentrating on your groove and, all of a sudden, you’ve got a car an inch away from you at times at the same speed. You throw all of that together and it’s more of an exciting ride.

“My attention span at Talladega was so short that, a couple laps in, I’m kind of day dreaming going down the backstretch. I has to slap myself and say, ‘Hey! Hey! Pay attention because I’m used to going four seconds. To keep up that attention, and go five hundred miles and do it, they would be amazing.

“We leave at five and, sometimes, six or seven Gs on a great run. Like they said I should be used to it. But I told them, ‘you come take a ride in my Funny Car and it may scare the hell out of you but, at times, I’m feeling like I’m on the edge.” I just need more laps.”

What do you guys talk about when you’re sitting around. I can imagine that they’d be fascinated to hear stories from you about accelerating to 330 MPH where they’re so used to going 200 that 330 sounds impossible.

“I was talking with guys I always watched, guys like Earnhardt, Jr., Jimmie Johnson, and, to me, I watched them all the time so it was kind of cool having a beer and relaxing. I could never tell you some of the stories Helio Castroneves was telling.

“I just came away from there with a great sense of pride because they were all the same kind of guys. It was like me and (Gary) Scelzi, or (Larry) Dixon or TJ (Tommy Johnson, Jr.) sitting around shooting the bull. It was the same thing with those guys just different kinds of stories.

Did you get the urge to ask for an autograph?

“At times I did and it wasn’t until one of those guys asked me for mine that I wanted to come back and say ‘I want a few from you!’ It’s kind of a mutual respect and I want to keep that.”

Finally, what did Don Prudhomme say? He probably has awesome envy because he wanted to do oval track or road racing at one time and never got the chance. Has he been keeping his fingers crossed with you?

“He’s been unbelievable. He’s been kind of like a father who watches his kid play football and living through him. He started when those guys tuned their own cars and did everything.”

Like the stock car guys did when they tuned their own cars and pulled them to the track on flat, open trailers.

“Exactly right. Snake always wanted to go that kind of stuff but never had the time because he always had to do whatever he did.

“It was almost like he was riding in the car with me. He was on the radio with me at Talladega. They put him on top of the hauler and I kind of got the feeling of what it would be like if I was driving a Cup car and he was up there. He’s been tremendous.

“He said “if you get invited, we’ll find out what weekends the races are and we’ll put you in the Lear and we’ll go back there. He could have easily said ‘we don’t want you to get hurt’ but, instead, he’s said, “we’ll do whatever it takes. We’re going to enjoy it and do whatever it takes. It’s been great support.”

So drag racers can do this? It’s not some anomaly for Ron Capps and his skills? Drag racers deserve to be in the International Race of Champions?

“I hope so. We just don’t want to go and make fools of ourselves. I think I did pretty good in the test.

“Hey, Tommy Johnson, Doug Kalitta, Whit Bazemore, I know a lot of those guys have a lot of talent, maybe more than me. There’s a lot of guys over here who can do that.

“It’s going to be exciting and I think we’re overlooked in that respect. I know they make the decisions late in the year. It could be a great Christmas for me.”