Brainerd: Epler exits finals early

Jim Epler had high hopes heading into Sunday's final eliminations of the Colonel's Truck Accessories NHRA Nationals. Once again, crew chief Roland Leong had given Epler a very consistent race car, recording three 4.9-second runs in qualifying...

Jim Epler had high hopes heading into Sunday's final eliminations of the Colonel's Truck Accessories NHRA Nationals. Once again, crew chief Roland Leong had given Epler a very consistent race car, recording three 4.9-second runs in qualifying with improvement on each pass. However, after qualifying 11th, he would enter his first round match-up against Bruce Sarver without the luxury of lane choice. In addition, a Sunday morning inspection of Epler's Cabela's/Matco Tools Camaro revealed crucial stress cracks in its carbon-fiber body which forced a last-minute switch to team owner Chuck Etchells' Sunoco/Matco body.

Even so, Epler looked forward to duplicating his strong run from Sonoma two weeks ago. Unfortunately, any hopes for a good showing were quickly extinguished when Epler uncharacteristically reacted too quickly to the starting line "Christmas Tree", with the resultant red-light start handing his opponent the automatic win.

"I'm not sure what happened on the red light. In checking our video tapes from the last two days, I had a .520 light in qualifying, which took seven clicks of yellow light in the video frames before it went green. By contrast, on today's run, it was a full five frames of yellow before I moved, which I thought would be a reaction time in the .480 range. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way.

"But even with a green light start we would not have won, because it kicked the rods out about 1.6 seconds into the run, which put a window in each side of the block. The team is analyzing the parts right now to see exactly what happened. Either way, our day was over before we would have liked it to.

"We're simply going to put today behind us and head to Indy, where we'll be testing for a couple days. I'll be driving both mine and Chuck's cars trying to get the tune-ups a little closer, so we can go into the U.S. Nationals in good shape to defend my title."

-ER

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Jim Epler