Capps called Chevrolet's new Monte Carlo Funny
Car body "very driver friendly." But on its
maiden NHRA voyage, the Monte Carlo that had
looked ultra-cool when it was unveiled before
Thursday's opening round of qualifying literally
was hot by the end of the track.
A head-gasket glitch caused a fire, tainting a run that surely would have vaulted Capps among the top five qualifiers. The pleasant news for the Skoal-sponsored Don Prudhomme camp is that the GM engineers' newest handiwork wasn't damaged and a safe Capps qualified in the middle of the field.
"The body actually didn't get hurt at all. The body's fine," crew chief John Stewart said afterward. "What happened was we torched a head gasket on the thing. There's a receiving sleeve that the head goes into, and the groove in that wasn't deep enough, so it didn't seal good. Once it got under power out there, it just pushed the head gasket out, burned the gasket out. And when it did that, there's an oil line behind that runs behind that, and it burned through the oil line. It was actually running good until that happened."
He said the team didn't get charged for an
oil-down in the incident. "We had all the belly
pans on there, and that caught it all," he said.
"So nothing went on the race track. That's the
first thing we checked. So we lucked out there."
Stewart said the plan was to go out and run
a high 4.80 or a low 4.90, and that's what it
was running until that happened. "It was doing
what we wanted. It was just something we missed
while building the thing -- it won't happen
again," said Stewart.
Capps settled for a 5.136-second pass at 228.04 mph, good enough for 10th on the chart. Capps said he is especially elated with the car's improved aerodynamics and visibility. "The car was flying on that pass," he said. "It had one of the fastest speeds to half-track. I'm so excited about driving the new Monte Carlo. That was the first time I raced it down the track, and as soon as they lowered the body, it was amazing how much I could see. I was telling Del Worsham how neat it was to see out of the car. Chevy did such a great job designing the new body."
Green, crew chief for Capps teammate Tommy Johnson
Jr., pronounced the Monte Carlo "the best Funny
Car GM ever has produced." The new design is
a blend of form and function -- aerodynamic
form and fast function -- as engineers tried
to preserve the looks of the current mid-size
coupe production car as much as possible while
enhancing performance. It includes safety upgrades,
including a larger burst panel for greater dissipation
of energy in case of an engine explosion such
as the one Capps had in Dallas in 2002. The
roof hatch was enlarged, too, and it, like the
burst panel, exceeds NHRA's minimum measurement
requirements. Prudhomme Racing's drivers are
the first to receive the Monte Carlo bodies,
but eventually they also will go to Tim Wilkerson,
Del Worsham's team, and Pedregon Racing for
brothers Cruz and Tony.