ETCHELLS TOO FAST IN SEATTLE KENT, Washington, August 2, 1998 - An NHRA drag race is one of the most straight-forward forms of competition in all of motorsports. It basically boils down to an all-out contest of speed. One quarter-mile of ...
ETCHELLS TOO FAST IN SEATTLE
KENT, Washington, August 2, 1998 - An NHRA drag race is one of the most straight-forward forms of competition in all of motorsports. It basically boils down to an all-out contest of speed. One quarter-mile of concrete and asphalt, straight as an arrow. Point A to Point B. Whoever gets to the finish line first, wins. As such, Chuck Etchells and his Kendall Oil/MaMa Rosa's Pizza/Superwinch Camaro Z28 seemed to have claimed their twenty-fifth elimination round victory of the season in the first round of Sunday's final eliminations at the Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals. His 5.092-second elapsed time would prove to be the second quickest of the day, and easily outdistanced his opponent's 8.389-second effort. However, all was not as it appeared, as back at the starting line, a defiant red light glared from the bottom of the "Christmas Tree", indicating that Etchells had left the line too soon, disqualifying his run and ending his chances for victory.
"I didn't even realize I had red-lit," stated Etchells afterwards. "Nothing was out of the ordinary at the start. I had no problem staging. I then looked at the second amber bulb on the tree, since it was the darkest of the three, and therefore easiest to see, and when I saw it come on, I went. The car was absolutely perfect, and sailed right on down. I got out of the car at the other end, thrilled with the run, when the TV crew came over and told me. I couldn't believe it. I don't think I've red-lit since around 1989 - it's been many, many years. That's why I didn't lift. Normally when you red light, you shut it off. But I thought everything was okay, so I drove it on through."
The Seattle International Raceway presented a completely new challenge to the competitors this year. Since the last Northwest nationals, the track had been completely resurfaced. Gone were the bumps and disparate lanes, replaced by pool-table smoothness and the potential for great speed. However, with no previous rubber on the track to provide traction, the fine line between success and tire-spin was even narrower than normal. Crews struggled to find the right combination, with few finding the right answers. During each qualifying session for the nitro-burning contingent, more blazing tires were seen than top speeds. After a failed clutch disc prevented them from claiming the top spot in Friday's nighttime session, the Etchells crew responded by posting the quickest elapsed time on Saturday, which earned them the fourth position on the ladder, and a first round match-up against number thirteen qualifier Chuck Beal. The stage was seemingly set for another long and successful afternoon.
"It's really a shame, because the car was flawless," concluded Etchells. "Sometimes you win races and the car is never right, and you blow things up just to win. Here, it's obvious that whatever Tim and Kim (co-crew chiefs Richards) decided on for today was absolute perfection. The spark plugs and engine looked better after that run than it has in probably the last two dozen passes. With the performance we showed in the first round with a conservative set-up, we definitely had a car that was capable of winning the race. Instead, we leave here in third place in the points. I wanted to have a perfect year driving and didn't want to cost the team a race. We've won a couple races on holeshots, and a few more in tire-smoking duels. We got bit today, but we're not going to dwell on it. This team knows what we're capable of and what needs to be done. We will put this race behind us and turn our attention to Brainerd. I think this entire Kendall Oil/MaMa Rosa's Pizza/Superwinch Camaro Z28 Racing team is now even more determined to do well there!"
In Sunday's final, Ron Capps overtook a tire-smoking John Force for his third win of the season. The NHRA takes the next two weekends off before heading to Brainerd, Minnesota and the Visionaire Northstar Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, August 20-23.
Funny Car Points Standings (as of 8/2/98): 1. J. Force - 999, 2. R. Capps - 988, 3. Chuck Etchells - 937, 4. Cruz Pedregon - 908, 5. T. Pedregon - 845, 6. T. Wilkerson - 789, 7. W. Bazemore - 784, 8. A. Hofmann - 573 9. D. Skuza - 638, 10. F. Pedregon - 589.
Big Bud Shootout Points (as of 8/2/98): 1. J. Force - 3020, 2. R. Capps - 2855, 3. Chuck Etchells - 2730, 4.(t) T .Pedregon - 2640, 4.(t) C. Pedregon - 2640, 6. D. Skuza - 2480, 7. W. Bazemore - 2465, 8. A. Hofmann - 2395.