ETCHELLS CAPTURES THE WIN AND THE POINTS LEAD IN RICHMOND Dinwiddie, VA, April 26, 1998 - Chuck Etchells, 43, of Putnam, Connecticut, captured his second win of the season by defending his title at today's 4th annual Pennzoil Nationals at...
ETCHELLS CAPTURES THE WIN AND THE POINTS LEAD IN RICHMOND
Dinwiddie, VA, April 26, 1998 - Chuck Etchells, 43, of Putnam, Connecticut, captured his second win of the season by defending his title at today's 4th annual Pennzoil Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park. In addition, by simply advancing to the final, the Kendall Oil/MaMa Rosa's Pizza/Superwinch Camaro pilot catapulted to the top position in the Winston Points standings for the first time in his NHRA Funny Car career.
After qualifying 4th, Etchells began the day with preliminary round victories over Del Worsham, Randy Anderson and number one qualifier John Force. This set the stage for the match-up against Tim Wilkerson, who had posted some of the fastest runs of the day and had the advantage of lane choice in the race for the win. However, Etchells was not to be taken lightly, as evidenced by his impressive 4.998 second, 288.55 mile-per-hour run in the semi-final win over arch rival Force. Relegated to the less-preferred left side, Etchells grabbed an over five-hundredths of a second advantage at the start. However, smoke began to pour from the tires of both race cars as they struggled to maintain traction. Calling upon driving skills cultivated over years of match races, Etchells began to furiously backpedal his Camaro, attempting to regain control and power his car down track. His efforts paid off and he was able to recover more quickly. As a result, his 6.019 second elapsed time was more than enough to post the victory over Wilkerson's 6.381 second pass.
"That last run was exciting from where I was sitting!" said Etchells. "We knew we would have to run good, because Tim (Wilkerson) had run so well all day. I think one thing that might have worked in our favor was our 4.99 in the semi-finals. The early numbers at the 330 clock showed it was on a high 4.80 run - its pace was ahead of the 4.89 we ran in Phoenix. They (Wilkerson's team) probably looked at the early numbers and thought 'We'll have to be careful of these guys, they could really hook it up'. So they went after it and we went after it, and it ended up being one of those tire-smoking deals, which quite frankly is a lot of fun for the driver.
It left hard, and I think I got out on him, since I never saw his car. We smoked the tires first, and I saw a glimpse of his fender. I got off it and back on it, smoked them again, back-pedaled again, and thought I was in trouble. I hit it again, and it started to lift the nose, which we call climbing the pinion, so I really thought I was dead. But then, fortunately, it lit the tires once more, which set it down so I could steer it. We got down to about a thousand feet, and I looked out the window and didn't see him. At that point, I was really blazing the tires. All of a sudden it tried to hook up, but my motor was dying fast. By the time I got to the finish line it was down to five cylinders, and it was having a hard time even smoking the tires. I'm guessing that from 700 feet on I just left the throttle wide open. But we got the win, and that's what counts."
But Etchells recognized that this was another team effort on and off the track, and was quick to recognize those involved.
"Motorsports is a difficult business, and sponsors are the lifeblood of what we do. Without them, we wouldn't be here. Kendall Oil and Superwinch have been loyal supporters for many, many years, and we've had Mighty Auto Parts and Snap-On Tools for several years. This year, with the addition of Chevrolet, MaMa Rosa's Pizza and Auto VentShade, we have a much better package to work with financially, which allows us to go after the championship.For the first time, we've been able to make a commitment this year to put every nickel into trying to win this thing (the championship).
I feel lucky to have a great crew. Our first pass of the weekend was a 5.16 in Friday afternoon qualifying, and ended up our slowest of the weekend. My co-crew chiefs, the General and his wife (Tim and Kim Richards), really consult on how we're going to run this car. We've been using some new clutch discs this season, and the car's been having a real problem the first sixty feet - it's not accelerating hard at all. But, they made the right decisions throughout the weekend, and got the car to run. They gave me the quicker hot rod in three out of the four rounds today. The way I see it, my crew chiefs won three rounds and I only had to win one. Of course that was the dash for the cash!
But overall, I am just very happy to being in this position and compete at this level. Being in the points lead means more to me for my team than for myself. Tim Richards won four world championships with Joe Amato, and Kim one in 1987 with her father Dick LaHaie. They haven't been there in a long time, so its probably more special to them. As far as I'm concerned, let's wait until after Sonoma to get excited. I know we're going to keep getting after it at every race, and try to stay on this good run we've been on."
The NHRA now moves to the Lone Star State for the running of next weekend's Castrol Nationals at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas April 30 -May 3.
Funny Car Points Standings (as of 4/26/98): 1. Chuck Etchells - 487, 2.(tie) J. Force & C. Pedregon - 456 4.(tie) T. Wilkerson & R. Capps - 384, 6. T. Pedregon - 362, 7. R. Anderson - 315, 8. A. Hofmann - 309, 9. D. Skuza - 279, 10. W. Bazemore - 256.
Big Bud Shootout Points (as of 4/26/98): 1. J. Force - 1820, 2. Chuck Etchells - 1755, 3. T. Pedregon - 1685 4. R. Capps - 1650, 5. A. Hofmann - 1580, 6. D. Skuza - 1540, 7. W. Bazemore - 1450, 8. R. Anderson - 1410 9. C. Pedregon - 1365, 10. G. Densham - 1340.