Chuck Etchells & Jim Epler both had noteworthy runs in the first qualifying session for the AutoZone Winternationals. However, despite the fact that they placed 15th and 9th with three round remaining, it would be safe to say that neither driver...
Chuck Etchells & Jim Epler both had noteworthy runs in the first qualifying session for the AutoZone Winternationals. However, despite the fact that they placed 15th and 9th with three round remaining, it would be safe to say that neither driver was satisfied with their performance.
For Etchells, his run was the first following a two-year absence from competition. However, his Kendall Oil/Matco Tools Camaro struggled at the launch, and eventually forced Etchells to shut off early, coasting through the timers in 6.694 seconds with a top speed of 136.48 mph.
"We had a fuel system malfunction. It went dead rich and dropped a bunch of cylinders, and since it wasn't going anywhere I shut if off past the 330 foot clock so it wouldn't blow up. That's certainly not how we wanted to start.
"Besides the obvious mechanical malfunction, we were also unable to get any information on our set-up. It's a bitter pil, but we're going to have top catch up to it quick."
The one positive Etchells was able to take away from his run was his own reaction to his first official run since his return.
"I never remember feeling that good in the racecar - it's as if I've never been away. I fit in the car perfectly - the guys did a good job of setting up the controls, and it feels great to be in there.
"The one thing I do notice that with the new rule about the filter for the clutch dust, there could be a real problem seeing. We'll have to work on the gaps around the clutch can and the covers, because right now it blows clutch dust at you like you're in a hurricane."
For Jim Epler, although he posted a solid elapsed time of 5.138 seconds with a top speed of 284.27 mph, his run had a more dramatic ending, as his Racing Champions/ Matco Tools threw the rods out of the engine, which caused a small fire to erupt inside the car. Fortunately, Epler was unhurt and, in fact, able to note that it was a case of dejà vu for the Phoenix, AZ resident.
"That was exactly like my debut with (crew chief) Terry Manzer here one year ago. First run, big fire. Actually, you always try to find the good in anything. We had never made it down the track in testing. In qualifying, you have to make every and you want to make every pass count, so even if it's not quite right, you try to make it to the finish line.
"What happened was after Chuck's car went out and was real rich and didn't go anywhere, we came back and overcompensated a little bit in the fuel system. As a result, it was lean and got hurt early and ended kicking a rod out. Fortunately, it didn't damage anything, and we're very fortunate the new Camaro body is in good shape. It was a little flash fire - hopefully it will get us on the news tonight, although I would have rather done it with low et.
"All in all, the crew chiefs are happy. The clutch set-up worked, and it could have used a little more power. The conditions should the same tomorrow, so we should be able to go out and run a low 4.90 and step it up from there."