Seattle Chuck Etchells Preview

ETCHELLS FEELS STRONG SHOWING AT SEATTLE MAY BE KEY TO SEASON KENT, Wash. -- As Chuck Etchells looks over the schedule of remaining races in the 1998 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series season, you can be sure that a big asterisk will be...

ETCHELLS FEELS STRONG SHOWING AT SEATTLE MAY BE KEY TO SEASON KENT, Wash. -- As Chuck Etchells looks over the schedule of remaining races in the 1998 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series season, you can be sure that a big asterisk will be placed beside the 11th annual Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals presented by Al's Auto Supply, July 31-Aug. 2. The $1.4 million race is the 14th of 22 events in the $30-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Not only is the event the final race in the three-event Western swing, placing a premium on available parts and team focus, but it also serves as the traditional first call for drivers who are engaged in tight Winston championship battles. With only eight races remaining on the schedule, it becomes crunch time. Etchells, however, who leads seven-time NHRA Winston champion John Force by only one point following the Autolite Nationals at Sonoma, Calif., needs no such warning signals. The Kendall Chevrolet Camaro driver, in no attempt to cling to a cliché, plans to take it one race at a time. "As I've said all along, we're not going to start getting caught up in this championship battle," Etchells said. "Our focus is still on performance and winning races. We want to work to stay in the hunt and then once we get down to the final few races and there's only a few points between us and the competition, then we'll start talking strategy. Until then, our main priority is to win races. We want to devote our full attention to each race as it comes." They'll need to devote their full attention to the Prolong Northwest Nationals. Etchells past history at the tricky quarter-mile suggests the venue isn't one of his all-time favorites. "Seattle has been a tough place for us over the years for a variety of reasons," Etchells said. "I think we're in a good position this season to be competitive there. We're looking forward to having some success there." Etchells best finish there came in 1995 when he made a semi-final appearance. Other than that, the Putnam, Conn. driver has two second round losses and three first round losses there. However, with two victories this season and four semi-final round appearances, Etchells' team appears to be in the best shape ever. "I think for the first time in my career, as a team we are financially able to have the parts to compete for the championship," Etchells said. "We've added several new associate sponsors this season and it has made a big difference in our performance. We've also got two of the best crew chiefs in the business with Tim and Kim (Richards). There's just a variety of things that's making a big difference in our performance this season." Etchells leads Force by one point with nine races remaining, and drivers like Ron Capps and Cruz and Tony Pedregon are within striking distance, setting the stage for a Winston championship battle that will be one to remember, no matter the outcome. With all due respect for Force and his decade of dominance, Etchells just hopes he's the one holding the trophy at the end. "John has proven over the years that he's the guy to beat," Etchells said. "We have a lot of respect for John, his team and what they've accomplished in the sport. But we're hungry, too. Obviously winning the championship would mean everything to this team. If we did win it, I think someone would have to wake me up and tell me I wasn't dreaming. Then, the next day, someone would have to tell me again so it would sink in. But more than anything, I would be really happy for this team. The majority of our team has stuck with us over the years and worked very hard. Winning the Winston championship would be a nice payback for all their hard work."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Ron Capps , John Force , Chuck Etchells