Etchells Wins Winston Finals; Camaro Z28s Claim Most Funny Car Titles in 1998
Capps is Runner-Up in Championship; All Three Camaro Drivers in Top Five
POMONA, Calif.; Nov. 15, 1998 -- Chuck Etchells, in the Kendall/Ma Ma Rosa's Pizza/Superwinch Camaro Z28, captured his third title of the 1998 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series today in the Winston Finals at Pomona Raceway, defeating Dale Pulde with a 5.119-second pass at 308.21 mph, to Pulde's tire-smoking 9.570/94.41. Etchells posted wins over Ron Capps, Tim Wilkerson and John Force on his way to the final.
Etchells gave the Chevy Camaro Z28 its eighth victory of the season in the Funny Car class, the most of any brand in the 22-event series. It was also Camaro's 10th overall professional title this year, including two Pro Stock wins for Kurt Johnson, in the AC Delco Camaro. Capps, driver of the Copenhagen Camaro Z28, collected the most titles, five; Etchells earned three.
All three Funny Car Camaro drivers ended the year in the top five in points: Capps in second, Etchells in fourth, and Whit Bazemore, in the Team Winston Camaro Z28, in fifth.
"It was a really great win for this Kendall Camaro Z28 team," said Etchells, 44, of Putnam, Conn. "Any win is good, but winning the Winston Finals is special, and I've now done it twice (in 1992 also). We went through three engines in the first three rounds, and we haven't had a chance to look at the fourth. Looking at our ladder, I feel like we ran four finals today, with opponents like Ron (Capps), Tim (Wilkerson), and of course John (Force).
"It was our first year driving a Camaro," added Etchells, "and I haven't won three races since 1992, so I think the old Chevy was good for me."
The 1998 season saw a tight battle for the championship in a classic Chevy vs. Ford confrontation. Both Capps and Etchells held the points lead this season, with John Force consistently nipping at their Nomex booties. It was the closest ever for Force, as Capps brought it down to the final event. Capps, 33, of Carlsbad, Calif., could not pull off an upset, however, as he was ousted by Etchells in the first round. John Force won his eighth Winston championship.
"It's been a hard weekend," he said. "We had a lot of pressure to win the championship. We had a lot of weird things happen. This wasn't our weekend. But we're very happy that we were able to put the Copenhagen Camaro into second place in the championship and to take (John) Force all the way to the final race of the year. It's going to be fun standing on the stage at the Awards Ceremony next to Force as No. 2, because we're proud to be there."
Etchells' win gave Camaro a Pomona bookend. Capps won the season-opener here in January.