Houston: Etchells steps up, but his upset bid falls shy in Houston

Final results from the 14th annual O'Reilly Nationals Date: Sunday, March 25, 2001 Location: Houston Raceway Park, Baytown, TX Heading into the first round of eliminations, Chuck Etchells knew he and his Kendall Oil/Matco Tools Camaro Z28 Racing...

Final results from the 14th annual O'Reilly Nationals
Date: Sunday, March 25, 2001
Location: Houston Raceway Park, Baytown, TX

Heading into the first round of eliminations, Chuck Etchells knew he and his Kendall Oil/Matco Tools Camaro Z28 Racing team had their work cut out for them. After qualifying 14th, not only would they be facing defending Funny Car champion John Force, but they would have to do so without the benefit of lane choice. In addition, the Etchells crew had been fighting an inconsistent race car throughout the weekend.

Despite the overwhelming odds, Etchells rolled to the line confident of being able to pull off the upset. From the start, it was apparent that Etchells was on his game, as he used the second quickest reaction time of the round to gain the advantage by nearly four hundredths of a second. Powering down track, Etchells extended his lead with some of best early numbers of the session.

However, just as it seemed that Etchells would gain the victory, smoke began to emanate from his Funny Car, indicating an engine problem. Although Etchells never lifted, his car did not respond, slowing to an elapsed time of 4.976 seconds, (ironically his best of the weekend) with a top speed of only 275.51 mph confirming the mechanical failure. However, this effort was not enough to hold off his opponent, who came back to just edge Etchells at the finish line.

"The guys came back last night and revised their entire strategy, because everything we were doing with our go-safe, poor track combination was not responding at all. Terry (crew chief Manzer) took a shot at what needed to happen based on what he had seen, and hit it right on the head. It was a perfect race-day set-up other than when the clutch discs really started to wear and pull the motor, it was just too lean, and didn't have enough fuel.

"We really had him (Force) where we wanted. We've raced many times, and it's always interesting. I was able get the jump on him at the start, but lost a cylinder at half-track and it was all downhill from there. As bad as it was running in the back half, I still didn't see him until 1100 feet. It's a shame, because we were seven hundredths ahead of him at half-track, and we let him have it (the win).

"Although we were unlucky going out in the first round, we were lucky in a way, because I really thought it was going to blow up, and it didn't. Even so, we learned a lot, which we'll apply to our test session tomorrow here with Jim Epler's car, which obviously has its problems. We put today's set-up in there and see how it responds. Hopefully, it will give us something to build on."

-J2Racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Epler , John Force , Chuck Etchells