Bristol: Epler qualifies 14th while Etchells misses

On the strength of a 4.971-second, 274.27 mph run recorded in Friday's nighttime session, Jim Epler qualified the Sunoco/Matco Tools Camaro 14th for Sunday's eliminations of the inaugural Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, Tennessee. Although...

On the strength of a 4.971-second, 274.27 mph run recorded in Friday's nighttime session, Jim Epler qualified the Sunoco/Matco Tools Camaro 14th for Sunday's eliminations of the inaugural Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, Tennessee. Although the Etchells Racing team had hoped to further improve during one of Saturday's two time trials, their efforts were thwarted by a combination of warmer temperatures and a tricky racing surface.

"In our first run in the right lane this morning, the Sunoco/Matco Camaro made a good move off the start, but I was trying to avoid some bumps in the track and ended up getting it out of the groove. I'll have to work on that tomorrow, because it looks like it could be a driver's race. We're not really sure what happened in this afternoon's run, so we'll have to check the computer.

"Even though today's conditions weren't ideal for quick times, it's what we're going to run in tomorrow. In fact, it's supposed to be a little warmer. It does appear that lane choice will be a factor, so it's unfortunate that we weren't able to secure it for the first round. We race Tim Wilkerson, who's a real hard charger. The good news is that we know our car will run a low 4.90 in the heat, so we'll set it up like we know how, and try to get down whatever lane they put us in."

As planned during the team's current transition period, Chuck Etchells limited his qualifying effort to one run in the Motley Crue/Matco Tools Camaro. Running in the heat of the afternoon in Saturday's final qualifying session, Etchells made a solid run, powering down the track in 5.158 seconds with a top speed of 288.03 mph. Unfortunately, it was not among the sixteen quickest required to make Sunday's final eliminations. Even so, Etchells offered a realistic assessment of the situation.

"Quite frankly, I'm just happy to be here, because we could very easily have been figuring out how to liquidate our team's assets if it wasn't for Sunoco. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude. Of course, we would have preferred to make all four qualifying runs with both cars. We come to a track not only to race, but to win. Unfortunately, we're not in that mode right now. We will be when we get to Englishtown next month. That is our focus right now.

"I wanted to get in on one run, but it's not too realistic when there are twenty-two good cars here for sixteen spots. It left pretty soft, and I knew it dropped a cylinder fairly early, but since it was running pretty straight I stayed in it. I could see Scott Weis out of the window the entire time, and he's normally a 5.0 guy, so I knew what kind of a run I was on. It did try to pick back up, so I stayed with it until the finish line, but it just didn't have enough. You're not going to run on seven cylinders and get in.

"But at least we were able to get the Motley Crue/Matco Tools Camaro out here for the fans in Bristol. For tomorrow, we'll put our attention on Jim Epler's Sunoco/Matco Camaro, and hopefully go some rounds After that, it's on to Atlanta!"

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Scott Weis , Jim Epler , Chuck Etchells , Tim Wilkerson