Pomona: Etchells & Epler Pick up the pace on Friday

Notes from the second day of qualifying for the 41st AutoZone Winternationals Friday in Pomona finds Etchells & Epler picking up the pace Date: Friday, February 1, 2001 Location: Pomona Raceway, Pomona, CA After a challenging first day where...

Notes from the second day of qualifying for the 41st AutoZone Winternationals

Friday in Pomona finds Etchells & Epler picking up the pace

Date: Friday, February 1, 2001
Location: Pomona Raceway, Pomona, CA

After a challenging first day where each had to deal with separate mechanical difficulties, Chuck Etchells & Jim Epler were determined to improve during Friday's second qualifying session at the AutoZone Winternationals. In each instance, the Etchells Racing teammates responded by recorded their first complete runs of the 2001 season. In Etchells' case, it did not take long for the first Funny Car driver to ever post a four-second elapsed time to return to familiar territory, as he blasted through the quarter-mile in 4.952 seconds with the second fastest top speed of the division at 309.56 mph on only his second official run since his return to competition. Although pleased to have placed his Kendall Oil/Matco Tools Chevrolet Camaro 5th halfway through qualifying, Etchells' account of the run revealed that it was far from routine.

"The run was really good. Terry (crew chief Manzer) and the guys put a really good tune-up in it, and it was smooth as a baby carriage. It's exciting to get to the finish line after two years, and it has a lot left in it.

"But what was really exciting came when I stepped of the throttle and the car kept going. We found out later from a spectator that the blow off hatch in the hood had a bolt shear, which sent it inside the injector. Knowing how short and bumpy the shut-off area is here, I pulled the parachutes, and was reaching over to shut the fuel off when it popped the blower. We're lucky that happened, because it was a very minor blower explosion and without it, we could have ended up in the sand trap upside down.

"The bottom line is that we made a good run, it didn't damage the car nearly as much as we could have, and we can look forward to trying to improve tomorrow - the Kendall/Matco Camaro has a lot left."

Jim Epler also bettered his previous attempt, slicing a full tenth of a second from his initial attempt. Epler's 5.095-second, 304.46 mph pass slotted the Racing Champions/Matco Tools Camaro 13th at the qualifying midpoint, with an eye on improving even further during Saturday's final two sessions.

"To be honest, that was our first full, clean run, and it simply drove through the clutch. When it left, the motor was up and it just didn't get on the tire really well, and I knew it. It didn't lock up until four seconds, which was right around a thousand feet. It wasn't a great run, but the Racing Champions/Matco Camaro is clean, dry and

it came back. We know we have a lot to work with. Chuck's car went 4.95, and even though the two cars are set up the same, they're still a little different, so we need to analyze the data and find out why. We're going to probably make a bigger move in my car tomorrow and a smaller one in Chuck's to see how they react. We'll know a lot more in twenty-four hours.

"We're really still testing, so we have to take things in small increments, or we'll never be ready for Sunday. Everybody from the crew chiefs on down is pleased with the progress. We know that by race day we need to be ready to run in the '80's because that's what it's going to take."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Epler , Chuck Etchells