*FRIDAY: 6-8 p.m. -- Don Schumacher Racing/John Force Racing charity fundraising event for EPG Cancer Care (open to the fans) in the DSR/Mopar/Oakley hospitality area. 

Ron Capps has two positive things going for him as he heads to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for this weekend's NHRA Nationals: the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car he drives for Don Schumacher Racing is showing promise after four straight first-round losses, and the quarter-mile at The Strip has arguably one of the best racing surfaces in the country.

Capps credits crew chief Ed "Ace" McCulloch and the NAPA crew for the team's newfound confidence after experiencing a "technical" epiphany before eliminations at the last event in Houston. Despite losing the opening round to a strong opponent, Capps' run was solid and straight and boded well for the future.

"We need to get back on track more than anything else," said Capps, a two-time Funny Car victor at The Strip. "We keep saying it's early in the season but, even though we lost in Houston, I felt good about what Ace has done with the NAPA Dodge. And there's no better time than right now to be going to Vegas.

"The Strip at Las Vegas has always been good to us, and Ace always runs well there," added Capps, who is 15th in the point standings. "So it's just a good time for everybody involved - our sponsors, our team, (team owner) Don Schumacher - to get this car going and win some rounds.

"Right now it would be nice to just go past first round. I thought I'd never say that again, but that's the kind of season it's been. It's been kind of a topsy-turvy, strange kind of year," said Capps of having to adapt to the extra 100 pounds added by NHRA to the Funny Cars this season. "Anything can happen at these races and we've seen that. So, what we need to do is just get better, and I think the whole team has got that same focus."

Capps welcomes the opportunity to race on a predictable, smooth surface. "We've obviously had some issues at the last few tracks we've been to, especially the track in Houston," he said. "It's nice to go to The Strip where you don't have to worry about the conditions of the track surface. These crew chiefs have to worry about so many things that need to be right in order for the car to run good, that when you throw something into the mix like the track surface to worry about, it puts undue pressure on everybody on the team.

"This is 2008 and we should not be going to any track where we need to be worried about bumps and jumps. I'm glad Houston is over with and I know that they'll fix it for next year. But that's the good thing about going to a Bruton Smith track and that's why we have two races in Las Vegas. That's why we love Sonoma, we love Bristol, and we're looking forward to Charlotte (all Bruton Smith-owned facilities).

"Any time we come to a track like The Strip in Vegas you can see a smile on the faces of the crew chiefs and the drivers, because we know that the track will be good. And that kind of puts everything else in the drivers' hands and the crew chiefs' hands."

Capps is tied with Tony Pedregon with the most Funny Car wins at The Strip at Las Vegas (Capps won both fall events in 2001 and 2005). He was runner-up to Robert Hight at the 2007 spring event.

Courtesy: Judy Stropus