CHUCK ETCHELLS SET TO RETURN TO COMPETITION IN ENGLISHTOWN Putnam, Connecticut, May 10, 1999 - The last time anyone saw Chuck Etchells at the controls of a Nitro Funny Car, he was in the process of eliminating an all-star cast enroute to his ...
CHUCK ETCHELLS SET TO RETURN TO COMPETITION IN ENGLISHTOWN
Putnam, Connecticut, May 10, 1999 - The last time anyone saw Chuck Etchells at the controls of a Nitro Funny Car, he was in the process of eliminating an all-star cast enroute to his thirteenth career event win at the Winston Finals last November. Now, after a self-imposed six-month hiatus, this veteran pilot will once again be donning his firesuit and helmet as he prepares to once again challenge the best in the business at the NHRA Mopar Parts Nationals in Englishtown, New Jersey. For the first time in many years, however, he will not be climbing into his familiar white, black and red Chuck Etchells Racing Camaro. That responsibility still lies with his hired driver Whit Bazemore. Instead, Etchells' mount will be the Sickles Motorsports Camaro Z28 Funny Car. As always, Etchells is straightforward about his outlook for the weekend.
"We're going into the Mopar Parts Nationals with the attitude of using it primarily as a test session," detailed Etchells. "We have a match race scheduled at Lebanon Valley the week after Englishtown, and right after that, we have the Chicago race. Naturally, we want to make sure to do well at both of those. Since we haven't made a single run together as team, we thought this would be a great opportunity to get our feet wet."
Both Etchells and crew chief Tom Anderson realize a successful Funny Car effort is more than simply strapping in a driver and launching down the track. Although this team has competed previously, bringing in a new driver can completely change the complexion. However, when the pilot in question is someone with Chuck Etchells' experience, who cut his racing teeth match racing on questionable tracks, Anderson knows that the cockpit is one area he will not have to worry about. In fact, the two have worked together in the past.
"The last time Chuck and I raced was 1984," said Anderson. When I quit racing full-time in 1983, I sold Chuck all my engines and tune-up, which I put in his car for the 84' Gatornationals. I drove for him at that race, and we recorded the fastest speed ever run by a Funny Car to that point, which was around 257 miles-an-hour. After that, Chuck took over driving, and we haven't worked together since.
We've made a few minor changes to the car since the last time we ran it, but nothing drastic. In all reality, I'm not at all worried about the driver. I know he'll do his job. If I give him a good horse, he'll get it down there. As long as it has a gas pedal and steering wheel, I know Chuck will be able to get in this thing and drive."
For his part, Etchells knows the primary reason for their participation at this event, and will work to ensure that the weekend is as productive as possible. However, he doesn't totally rule out making some noise during Sunday's final eliminations.
"My goals are quite simple," stated Etchells. "With our self-imposed limit of two motors for the weekend, we can't have realistic aspirations of winning the race. It would be an accomplishment if we were able to go out there and qualify. Englishtown is a great track, and I certainly hope to go out and run in the mid to low 4.90's, which will be the quickest that car has ever run. We'd need that to be competitive. If we're able to that, you never know what will happen on Sunday. Either way, I'm looking forward to it."