Indianapolis Etchells Preview

ETCHELLS SETS HIS PRIORITIES FOR THE "BIG GO" Putnam, Conn., August 28, 1998 - Over the next few days, there will be a lot written about the rich history of next weekend's U.S. Nationals, and its special place in every competitor's...

ETCHELLS SETS HIS PRIORITIES FOR THE "BIG GO"

Putnam, Conn., August 28, 1998 - Over the next few days, there will be a lot written about the rich history of next weekend's U.S. Nationals, and its special place in every competitor's heart. After all, short of winning the Winston championship, it is the biggest single achievement that any of the world's fastest quarter-milers can aspire to. But despite this event's importance and the prestige attached with winning, Chuck Etchells and the Kendall Oil/MaMa Rosa's Pizza/Superwinch Camaro Z28 Racing team have their own reasons for doing well at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

"Without a doubt, the U.S. Nationals is the one race that every driver wants to win, and I'm no different," stated Etchells. "But this team has extra motivation for this weekend. Our primary objective is to be in the winner's circle for the Big Bud Shootout on Sunday and the U.S. Nationals on Monday. That would mean a $250,000 payout, and we could sure use the money. We also see the Indy event as an opportunity to get back some of the ground we've lost in the chase for the championship during the past few races. Finally, we will be hosting some potential sponsors throughout the weekend, and putting a good show on for them could be crucial to this team's long-term future. Even so, we are going to approach this event as we do any other on the circuit."

But despite the Etchells team philosophy, it will be hard to escape the fact that this indeed is the crown jewel in the sport of drag racing. First, there is the qualifying format, with five sessions held over three days, starting with the most crucial time trial on Friday evening. With no previous on-track experience other than a test session held earlier this week, crew chiefs will be challenged to decipher the track and post a fast time, as this session will arguably have the best conditions of any throughout the weekend. By scoring well on Friday, tuners can then turn their attention to race day set-ups, which includes two sets of eliminations. For another feature unique to the Indianapolis weekend is the Big Bud Shootout, where the eight fastest "fuel coupes" from the past year compete in a high-stakes, single-elimination tourney that is folded into Sunday's qualifying round. However, the financial benefit of participating in this all-star race can be somewhat offset by the effect it has on the team's time trial mindset. Instead of simply racing the track and the conditions in search of performance, one must now worry about their opponent, lane choice and getting the win light. In Chuck Etchells' opinion, the entire weekend is a high-speed, nitro-burning game of chess.

"The way we see it, the top three or four cars from Friday night's session will have positioned themselves to do well throughout the weekend, simply because you can starting working on getting ready for the Sunday and Monday competitions" explained Etchells. "But racing at Indy has its own set of circumstances. Running in the Big Bud Shootout means the top eight teams may be forced to show their hands before Monday's final eliminations, which could work in a dark horse's favor, since they could continue to try things and fine-tune while we're having to race. But if you're able to get a hold of the track on Sunday and do well in the Shootout, you build up a great deal of momentum. If conditions remain the same through Monday, you can really hit the ground running. I know that after our test session, Tim, Kim (co-crew chiefs Richards) and the entire team is carefully going over every detail of the Kendall Oil/MaMa Rosa's Pizza/Superwinch Camaro Z28 and deciding just how we're going to tackle the IRP surface. This is a big weekend for the Etchells Racing team, and we're looking for some big results!"

ETCHELLS EXCERPTS: This will be Chuck Etchells' 12th appearance at the U.S. Nationals...

Etchells looks to move up from his third place in the Winston points standings.....

In his eleven previous attempts at IRP, Etchells has qualified in the top four five times, and in the top half of the field eight times.....

Etchells has reached the semi-finals at this event four times.

Fast Facts

WHAT: 44th Annual U.S. Nationals, the sixteenth of 22 events on the 1998 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series schedule.

WHEN: September 2-7, 1998

WHERE: Indianapolis Raceway Park, Clermont, Indiana

SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying sessions start on Friday, September 4 at 7:00 p.m., continue on Saturday, September 5 at 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., and conclude on Sunday, September 6 with two rounds at 11:00 and 3:00 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Monday, September 7. The Big Bud Shootout will be held on Sunday, September 6, with rounds at noon, 2:00 p.m. and 4:45 p.m.

TV: TNN will provide three hours of semi-final and final round coverage from 4:00 - 7:00 p.m. (CDT) on Monday, September 7, and one hour of Big Bud Shootout coverage on Sunday, September 6 from 4:00-5:00 p.m.. As always, please check your local listings.

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