Gateway: Etchells, Epler Friday rollercoaster

Chuck Etchells and Jim Epler each experienced an up-and-down day during Friday's qualifying sessions at Gateway International Raceway. After opening his time trials for the Sears Craftsman Nationals with a solid 4.978-second, 278 -mph run, ...

Chuck Etchells and Jim Epler each experienced an up-and-down day during Friday's qualifying sessions at Gateway International Raceway. After opening his time trials for the Sears Craftsman Nationals with a solid 4.978-second, 278 -mph run, Etchells' evening attempt was slowed by a dropped cylinder, leaving the Sunoco/Matco Tools Camaro in the precarious 16th position heading into Saturday's events.

"It was on an identical run to the one we made this afternoon, when it dropped a cylinder just before half-track. Without that, it probably would have run a number close to Jim's 4.95, which is disappointing because we were looking to run in the '.80s. You only get one shot at these Friday night deals, and you have to take advantage of it, and we didn't.

"With so many good cars not in the show, that 4.97 is not going to hold, and I'm pretty sure Jim's '.95 is going to get bumped as well. Therefore, both cars must improve. Lane choice is probably out of the question, because you'll have to be in the 4.87 - .88 range to do that, and it is supposed be much warmer tomorrow. Our first priority is to make sure we get in the show, and then work on a race set-up.

"It's obvious we're making progress, because both cars are going down the track on every run, which we weren't doing before. We're just not going fast enough, and that's what we have to focus on."

For his part, Epler had to bounce back from a starting-line explosion in the afternoon session, which popped the body off his Rug Doctor/Matco Tools Camaro at the hit of the throttle. The Etchells Racing crew quickly repaired all damage in time for the nighttime run, and rewarded for their efforts when Epler, running in the first pair, recorded a 4.956-second elapsed time with a top speed of 305.98 mph, slotting the Phoenix, AZ 14th at the qualifying midpoint.

"The only bad part about tonight's run is that it should have been our first one, so we could have used the data to run even better in the cooler session. I could tell it was soft leaving and went through the clutch a little bit because the track was actually better than we anticipated.

"But we did what we needed, and that was to go from A to B, which hopefully we can improve on tomorrow. It's supposed to be sunny tomorrow, and you never know what that will do to the racetrack. But the bottom line is that there are a lot of good teams on the outside looking in, so we're going to have to improve.

"Most importantly, I'd like to welcome back Rug Doctor; it's exciting to have them back on the car. As I said after the run, today was a typical Rug Doctor deal - blow up one run, spectacular the next!"

-Etchells Racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Epler , Chuck Etchells