All-Camaro Final in Phoenix -- Etchells Wins Funny Car Title, Capps is Runner-Up PHOENIX, Ariz.; Sunday, Feb. 22, 1998: It was "Performance, American Style" at the ATSCO Nationals at Firebird ...
All-Camaro Final in Phoenix -- Etchells Wins Funny Car Title, Capps is Runner-Up PHOENIX, Ariz.; Sunday, Feb. 22, 1998: It was "Performance, American Style" at the ATSCO Nationals at Firebird International Raceway, as Chevrolet added another milestone to its long, storied history in the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. For the first time in NHRA Funny Car history, two Chevy Camaro Z28 Funny Cars made it into the finals. Ron Capps and Chuck Etchells went head to head, with Etchells taking the first win for the 1998 Camaro body and breaking track records on his way to his 11th career Funny Car victory.
Etchells, driving the Kendall/MaMa Rosa's Pizza/Superwinch Camaro Z28, became the second Camaro Funny Car driver in as many races of the '98 NHRA season to win the Funny Car title, following Capps' triumph at the Chief Auto Parts Nationals in Pomona, Calif., in his Don Prudhomme-owned Copenhagen Camaro.
The two-for-two Camaro wins place these Team Chevrolet drivers one-two in championship points: Capps with 209, Etchells 171. That's a remarkable feat for the only two Camaro Z28 Funny Cars in the field of 21 racers made up also of nine Pontiacs, seven Dodges and three Fords. Camaros have now won four Funny Car titles since returning to NHRA competition in 1997 (Capps 3, Etchells 1).
This was not the first all-Chevy Funny Car final, however. Back in 1985, here at Firebird International Raceway, John Collins, in an '85 Camaro defeated John Force, driving an '85 Corvette.
Capps launched off the line five hundredths of a second quicker than Etchells (.479/.529 reaction times), but lost traction at the 300-ft. mark. He tried to pedal it, but was unable to keep the power down, reaching the finish line in 8.630 seconds, at 92.40 mph. Etchells rocketed his Camaro to the end of the quarter-mile, demolishing track records in both elapsed time and top speed with his 4.944-second, 312.42-mph pass.
"This is the best race car we have ever had -- the chassis, the balance, the Camaro body," said Etchells, 43, of Putnam, Conn. "I was pretty impressed myself with the 4.94 run. The Funny Car class is probably the most difficult fuel category. We got by the first round (against Mitch McDowell), in the second round (defeating Whit Bazemore) we blew the thing up. It had four holes in the motor, and it blew the valve cover off. The general and his wife (crew chiefs Tim and Kim Richards) did a great job." Etchells barely made it to the starting line in time for the semi-finals as his crew was scrambling to replace the engine.
Capps, 32, of Carlsbad, Calif., was disappointed but, as always, upbeat. "We didn't win, but we had a great weekend, considering how much we struggled. Roland (Leong, crew chief) was fighting the tune-up all weekend. The only run we were pleased with was the 4.97 we ran in the first round (a win over Dale Creasy Jr.). The final round was exciting. I talked with Chuck before the run and we said, 'whatever happens, happens.' I'm very happy and am having a good time out here. I'm also happy for Chevy."