Chuck Etchells and Jim Epler were cautiously optimistic heading into Sunday's final eliminations of the Pontiac Excitement Nationals. Both Etchells' Sunoco/Matco Tools Camaro and Epler's Racing Champions/Matco Tools Camaro had performed well in...
Chuck Etchells and Jim Epler were cautiously optimistic heading into Sunday's final eliminations of the Pontiac Excitement Nationals. Both Etchells' Sunoco/Matco Tools Camaro and Epler's Racing Champions/Matco Tools Camaro had performed well in the final qualifying session, and the team felt they had a handle on their hot weather tune-up. Even so, the task of advancing to the next round would not be an easy one as they would have to overcome higher qualified cars without the benefit of lane choice.
Epler was the first to run, facing Tommy Johnson Jr., who selected the left side of the track. However, before the Phoenix resident could even think about pulling the upset, his hopes were erased in a cloud of smoke as his car lost traction almost immediately, allowing his rival to drive on for the win.
"We tried to speed our cars up based what we saw yesterday. It seemed to be safe on the concrete, and I don't know what happened, it just didn't make it. There was too much wheel speed early and it drove right into tire smoke, giving me no chance to save it. The main thing we accomplished is getting both cars in the show, and gathered some important information on running on hot weather racetracks. We learned a lot and take it to St. Louis next week and try and do a better job."
Unfortunately, team owner Etchells fared no better in his race against Johnny Gray. In fact, his run was virtually identical to his teammate's, ending early with an almost immediate loss of traction.
"Terry (crew chief) Manzer watched Jim's run since he raced in the fourth pair, while I was the eighth. He thought the starting line was a little better than he had anticipated, so he came back and took a little air out of my tires hoping they would spin - well, mission accomplished, because they certainly spun! Even though they are supposed to be set-up identically, there obviously was something different on mine, because my car was definitely sharper, making more power. The end result is that Jim's car threw us a curve, which is one of the growing pains of a two-car program.
"But overall, I'd have to say we made progress the weekend. We're getting our parts inventory back in shape, both the Sunoco/Matco Camaro and Racing Champions/Matco Camaro qualified, when a lot of good cars went home. There's no question we're going in the right direction. We're headed to St. Louis next weekend where conditions will probably be very similar if not worse, and I'm pretty confident we have some good information from here that we can use and just keep going forward."