Richmond Chevrolet Story/Notes

Camaro Funny Car Driver Chuck Etchells Scores Second Win of Year in Virginia, Jumps Into NHRA Points Lead Dinwiddie, Va.; Sunday, April 26, 1998: It wasn't pretty, but it was another victory, the third this season, for the Chevy Camaro...

Camaro Funny Car Driver Chuck Etchells Scores Second Win of Year in Virginia, Jumps Into NHRA Points Lead

Dinwiddie, Va.; Sunday, April 26, 1998: It wasn't pretty, but it was another victory, the third this season, for the Chevy Camaro Z28 as Chuck Etchells laid a trail of tire smoke down the Virginia Motorsports Park quarter-mile to win the Pennzoil Nationals final for nitro Funny Cars. In a head-to-head matchup with Tim Wilkerson, who also lost traction, it was Etchells who crossed the finish line first with an elapsed time of 6.019 seconds, and a top speed of 238.79 mph. Both cars were engulfed in smoke as Wilkerson struggled to regain grip, trailing Etchells' Kendall/MaMa Rosa's Pizza/Superwinch Camaro Z28 to the line with an elapsed time of 6.381 seconds, and a top speed of 212.06 mph.

Etchells, the defending Pennzoil Nationals champion, launched himself into the Winston points lead by making it to the starting line for the final after he defeated John Force in the semi-finals (4.998/288.55 to 5.124/277.94) and Cruz Pedregon was eliminated in the first round. He holds a 31-point lead over Cruz and Force, who are now tied in second (487-456-456).

This marked the fifth win for the Camaro Z28 body since Chevrolet returned to NHRA competition in the Funny Car class in 1997. It's also Etchells' second victory of the year in the Camaro, after winning the ATSCO Nationals in Phoenix, and the 12th of his career in 24 final rounds.

"We smoked the tires first," said Etchells, 43, of Putnam, Conn. "I saw a little of his purple color go by. We recovered first and got there first. This Camaro body saved our butt today and gave us great downforce.

"I've never been in the points lead," added Etchells, the No. 4 qualifier here, with an e.t. of 4.976 seconds and a speed of 306.12 mph. "It's great, but I think it's way too early in the season (to be thinking about the championship). I've always said right along, let's see what happens after the last race in Sonoma (Calif.). There are a lot of guys bunched in tight in the top five, it's going to be a good battle for the rest of the year."

Etchells eliminated Del Worsham, Randy Anderson and Force on his way to the final. No. 5 qualifier (5.025/285.17) Ron Capps, driver of the Copenhagen Camaro Z28 Funny Car, was defeated in the first round by Randy Anderson; No. 3 Pro Stock qualifier (6.931/198.19) Kurt Johnson, in the ACDelco Camaro Z28, went out in the second round against Jeg Coughlin; No. 7 qualifier (6.950/197.49) Larry Morgan, in the Raybestos Camaro Z28, was eliminated by Richie Stevens in the first round. In Top Fuel, Larry Dixon, in the Miller Lite Top Fuel Dragster, failed to qualify, and Cristen Powell, driver of the Team Reebok machine, lost the first round to Bob Vandergriff Jr.

Team Chevrolet Facts From the Pennzoil Nationals:

* Chuck Etchells is second in Big Bud Shootout points, Ron Capps is fourth.

* Kurt Johnson is second in Pro Stock Challenge points, Larry Morgan is ninth.

* Ron Capps is fifth in Funny Car Winston Championship points, tied with Tim Wilkerson (384).

* Kurt Johnson is fifth in Pro Stock Winston Championship points (305).

* Cristen Powell's Team Reebok was awarded "Best Appearing Crew."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Larry Morgan , Chuck Etchells , Cruz Pedregon , Tim Wilkerson , Bob Vandergriff , Cristen Powell