ETCHELLS HAS ALL SYSTEMS GO FOR HOUSTON Putnam, Conn., March 16, 1998 - Just south of Houston is the Johnson Space Center, which for years has been home to Mission Control, monitoring the progress of every American flight into space. However,...
ETCHELLS HAS ALL SYSTEMS GO FOR HOUSTON
Putnam, Conn., March 16, 1998 - Just south of Houston is the Johnson Space Center, which for years has been home to Mission Control, monitoring the progress of every American flight into space. However, there was one major launch last October that made quite a bit of noise, yet never showed up on NASA's radar. Ironically, it originated in the nearby town of Baytown. The launch vehicle was a 6,000 horsepower Nitro Funny Car, piloted by Chuck Etchells. In less than five seconds, the mission was completed, and the result was the fastest speed ever run by an NHRA Funny Car - 315.56 miles-per-hour. Although that mark was just eclipsed over this past weekend, the story does not end, for a look at the schedule reveals another launch window is open starting this Friday with the running of the 11th Annual Pennzoil Nationals at Houston Raceway Park. Chuck Etchells and his Kendall Oil/MaMa Rosa's Pizza/Superwinch Camaro Z28 are ready and waiting.
"Houston Raceway Park is a great race track, and conditions should be pretty similar to last weekend, when the records were falling in Gainesville," explained Etchells. "Keeping that in mind, if the track is good, the highest-horsepower cars should do well, and that's right down our alley!"
There are several reasons for Etchells to be optimistic entering this weekend's event. The team has gotten off to one of the best starts in its history, and has shown the consistency necessary to challenge not only for event wins, but the Winston championship. Their arsenal of speed parts has been strengthened by new sponsorship support. In addition, Etchells' crew has adapted well to their sleek new Camaro Z28 Funny Car, keeping it among the top five performers at all three events. Last weekend, for example, Etchells followed his Phoenix win by making the quickest pass of his career with a blistering 4.892 second run in Florida, and advanced to the semifinals. Another factor in their favor is the short time between races. There is no time for major changes, and teams will rely on their experience in setting the car up for competition, which is one of this veteran team's strengths. Finally, they return to the Houston speedplant with what they see as unfinished business. After setting the track speed mark last October, they were denied the opportunity to capture either the national record or the event win when they suffered a violent blower explosion in the first round of eliminations. They see this race as the first opportunity to finish what they started.
"Last year was brutal. When you have a car as strong as we had here last October, you don't want to waste it," said Etchells. "But we've come a long way since then. Now we're back - with a better car, a stronger team, and even more determination. The win in Phoenix only made us hungry for more. Our goal is to spend this Sunday night with the Kendall Oil/MaMa Rosa's Pizza/Superwinch Camaro Z28 in the winner's circle!"
ETCHELLS EXCERPTS: Etchells looks to improve upon his 315.56 miles-per-hour pass from October of last year, which is currently the track record in Funny Car.....Chuck is looking for his second victory of the season after winning the ATSCO Nationals in Phoenix.....Etchells' record for eliminations this year is 7-2.
WHAT: 11th Annual Pennzoil Nationals, the fourth of 22 races comprising the 1998 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.
WHEN: March 19-22, 1998
WHERE: Houston Raceway Park, Baytown, TX
SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying sessions start on Friday, March 20 at 2:00 p.m., with another session at 6:00 p.m., and conclude on Saturday, March 21 with two rounds at 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 22.
TV: ESPN2 will have live coverage of the final round of eliminations on Sunday, March 22 from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. (Eastern). In addition, there will be same-day coverage of the first day of qualifying from 8:30 - 10:30 p.m. on Friday, March 20.