Denver: Etchells, Epler final qualifying

The Etchells Racing Team successfully completed the first half of their two-part assignment at Bandimere Speedway by qualifying both race cars for Sunday's final eliminations of the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals. However, it was not until...

The Etchells Racing Team successfully completed the first half of their two-part assignment at Bandimere Speedway by qualifying both race cars for Sunday's final eliminations of the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals. However, it was not until time trials were completed that teammates Chuck Etchells and Jim Epler knew exactly what their starting positions would be.

Despite sitting 8th at the conclusion of events on Friday, Sunoco/Matco Tools Camaro pilot Etchells felt improvement would be necessary to guarantee a spot in the field. However, his first attempt on Saturday morning was thwarted by an early loss of traction, while a mechanical problem on his final attempt limited his performance improvement to mere thousandths of a second. Even so, his 5.071-second, 295.56 mph pass was enough to secure the 14th position and set the stage for a first-round encounter with No. 3 qualifier Bruce Sarver.

"We were looking for more on tonight's run, and it ran really well the first half. Unfortunately, the timer that controls the ignition advance failed, which caused it to spin the tires the entire second half and slowed us to a 5.07. Obviously, we're not happy with qualifying 14th, but anytime you come up here, you know it's going to be tough. We are pleased that the Sunoco/Matco Camaro went down the track three out of four times, and we know what the problem was on the one run we didn't make it down, so we feel we're making progress with the tune-up There's certainly a lot left in it. Terry (Manzer), Roland (Leong) and Larry (Meyer) are working well together, and I think Dave (Hutchens) is a huge addition that could pay dividends on this West Coast swing.

"I'm cautiously optimistic about tomorrow. We run Bruce Sarver in the first round who in the last three or four races has had trouble getting down the track in the heat of the day. Obviously we hope that trend continues. We also have Jim facing T.J. Jr. in the first round. TJ is a tough competitor, but we've had some success against him this year. We'll see what tomorrow brings - hopefully it will be another good day on the mountain for Etchells Racing."

For the second time in as many races with Roland Leong as his crew chief, Jim Epler put together a solid qualifying effort. In three of his four attempts, Epler's United Car Care/Matco Tools Camaro not only completed a full-power pass, but it also improved upon its previous performance. Epler's 5.041 second, 301.13 mph run on Saturday morning was enough to place the Phoenix resident 12th, with a mechanical failure on his final attempt preventing him from capturing an even better starting position.

"Unfortunately, tonight we were on what would have been our best run in qualifying when the burst panel went out. After that, we may start replacing them after every run. Even so, we still gathered some important information before the part failed. We've learned a lot this weekend because the United Car Care/Matco Camaro not only went down the track three out of four times, it ran better on every run, which is extremely important.

"I think we'll be in good shape tomorrow. Its doesn't really get cloudy until later in the afternoon, and if there's sun on track, I know we'll be capable of running a low 5.0, which will be tough to beat. It is extremely critical to Roland that we don't beat ourselves, which is our game plan for Sunday - to not beat ourselves."

-ER

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