ETCHELLS GETS DOUBLE-TEAMED IN HOUSTON BAYTOWN, Texas, March 22, 1998 - This past weekend in the Pennzoil Nationals at Houston Raceway Park, Chuck Etchells and his Kendall Oil/MaMa Rosa's Pizza/Superwinch Camaro Z28 Funny Car ran into the drag...
ETCHELLS GETS DOUBLE-TEAMED IN HOUSTON
BAYTOWN, Texas, March 22, 1998 - This past weekend in the Pennzoil Nationals at Houston Raceway Park, Chuck Etchells and his Kendall Oil/MaMa Rosa's Pizza/Superwinch Camaro Z28 Funny Car ran into the drag racing equivalent of a double-team. After disposing of Frank Pedregon in the opening round, Etchells was paired against his younger brother, Tony in round two. The winner would face the third Pedregon sibling, middle brother Cruz, in the semifinals. Etchells gained a slight advantage at the start, and seemed enroute to another win, when his 6,000 horsepower motor suddenly lost a cylinder and allowed Pedregon to gain the victory.
"When I saw the eliminations ladder on Saturday, I knew it would be a case of tough, tougher and toughest. Those Pedregons are a talented bunch," said Etchells. "We had a good solid run against Frank in the first round. Our Z28 ran perfectly straight, and we didn't hurt a thing. But we had an ignition problem during our warm-up for the second round, and we're positive that's why we lost the cylinder against Tony. It's too bad, because I think we could have gotten lane choice over Cruz in the semis, and that would have been interesting."
Sunday's eliminations were a reflection of the entire weekend, as the Etchells team had its share of high and lows. On the track, their Camaro continued to fly, posting consecutive 4.9-second passes on Friday and planting themselves firmly in the top half of the ladder. But such performance did not come without a cost, as the nighttime session produced a major engine failure, requiring the team to work late into the night to prepare for the final two time trials on Saturday. After using a conservative set-up for the morning, the Etchells crew went after the top spot on their last attempt. Etchells started strong, but his pass came to an abrupt halt when the input shaft, which transfers the awesome power from the engine to the rear end, unexpectedly snapped. With the unbridled engine screaming to nearly 10,000 rpm's, the team's concern now laid in the amount of damage that had occurred. Although vital parts such as the entire clutch assembly, valves and valve springs were destroyed, the major components had been spared when the force of the instant acceleration had sheared the bolts holding the supercharger to the engine, releasing the internal pressure.
"We had some unusual things happen this weekend," exclaimed Etchells. "Take, for example, the input shaft that broke on Saturday. Last year, we used the same one all season, and this one snapped after only 24 runs! It's too bad, because our computer showed we were on a 4.88 pace. We're not satisfied unless we win, of course, but we leave here with a lot of positives. We had another strong car, qualified well and won a round. We gained ground in the points race, and are now only two points behind the leader. We've also managed to keep John Force behind us, which says a lot about this team. Finally, we maintained our lead in the standings for the Big Bud Shootout, which we've led since October. Getting that kind of results on this type of weekend is how you chase a championship and that's precisely what this Kendall Oil/MaMa Rosa's Pizza/Superwinch team is here to do."
In Sunday's final, Tony Pedregon defeated John Force to notch his first win of the season. The NHRA will take next weekend off before heading to Rockingham, North Carolina for the Winston Invitational April 3-5.
Funny Car Points Standings (As of 3/22/98): 1. C. Pedregon - 302, 2. Chuck Etchells - 300, 3. R. Capps - 298, 4. J.Force -281, 5. T. Pedregon - 277, 6. R. Anderson - 229, 7. A. Hofmann - 225, 8. D. Skuza - 213, 9. T. Wilkerson - 211, 10. W. Bazemore - 150.
Big Bud Shootout Standings (As of 3/22/98): 1. Chuck Etchells - 1505, 2. J. Force - 1480, 3. A. Hofmann - 1445, 4. T. Pedregon - 1435, 5. R. Capps - 1395, 6. D. Skuza - 1285, 7. W. Bazemore - 1195, 8. R. Anderson - 1170, 9. G. Densham - 1070, 10. D. Worsham - 960.