ETCHELLS RIDES A LEARNING CURVE IN POMONA POMONA, CA, February 1, 1998 - This past weekend in Pomona, Chuck Etchells did something the average American consumer can relate to - he drove his new car. Just like anyone who has purchased a...
ETCHELLS RIDES A LEARNING CURVE IN POMONA
POMONA, CA, February 1, 1998 - This past weekend in Pomona, Chuck Etchells did something the average American consumer can relate to - he drove his new car. Just like anyone who has purchased a vehicle, he spent a little time driving and learning about it during the Chief Auto Parts Winternationals. But where the consumer might be looking for a cupholder, or how the CD player works, the Kendall Oil/MaMa Rosa's Pizza/Superwinch driver's task was a bit more involved. In a matter of three days, Etchells had to get his 5,000 horsepower Chevrolet Camaro Z28 Nitro Funny Car up to speed, and be ready to take on the world's best "fuel coupes" in Sunday's eliminations. Battling changing track conditions, he qualified fifth, and advanced to the second round on Sunday, where he faced Tim Wilkerson. Etchells gained the advantage at the start, and powered to his quickest elapsed time (5.012 sec.) and highest speed (309.49 mph) of the weekend, but his effort fell just short, as his opponent was able to drive around for the win.
"We had a good run. I got the jump at the start, and drove it straight down the lane," explained Etchells afterward. "I didn't see him until the very end, when he (Wilkerson) put a huge move on us - they must be making some power! Even so, I'm happy with our showing - we stepped up from a 5.13 in the first round to a 5.01, which is getting it done in our division!"
The Etchells Racing team's efforts to familiarize themselves with their new Chevy during qualifying were hampered by sporadic rain, which delayed not only the first session on Thursday but also the fourth on Saturday. By the time the Funny Cars were given the opportunity to run, the evening air had cooled the track to the point where the competitors were unable to generate the tire temperatures necessary for speed-producing traction. In most cases, runs were aborted after a few short feet. Friday's time trial, however, was held in the warmth of the afternoon, and Etchells took advantage, posting a 5.027-second elapsed time, which would place him fifth in the final rankings.
"With the uncertainty over the weather, we put in a soft set-up," stated Etchells. "Our goal was to make a full pass that would put us safely in the field. We've done that. There's a lot more left in it, and I'm sure "The General" and Kim (co-crew chiefs Tim and Kim Richards) are hard at work figuring how we can step it up."
Sunday's eliminations brought early morning sunshine with the threat of an afternoon rain. Chuck Etchells' first round opponent would be second-yeardriver and number twelve qualifier Randy Anderson. In an attempt to distract the faster Etchells, Anderson "deep staged" by pulling as far forward in the starting box as possible. This ploy did not work, however, as Etchells left almost three hundredths of a second ahead and never looked back, his 5.13 e.t. easily defeating Anderson, who shut off early. This set the stage for his match up with Wilkerson.
"Overall, it was a pretty good weekend for the Kendall Oil/MaMa Rosa's Pizza/Superwinch Racing team," said Etchells. We've learned a lot about our Chevrolet Camaro Z28, and think it will be a great race car. We qualified well and won a round. The good news is that we didn't hurt any parts, and we're encouraged that there's room for improvement. It's a good start to the season."
In Sunday's final, Etchells' Chevrolet "teammate" Ron Capps defeated Wilkerson for the first win of the year. The NHRA circuit now takes the next two weekends off before heading to Phoenix for the ATSCO Nationals February 19-22.