Denver: Etchells and Epler have a short day at the office

Etchells Racing Excerpts Final results from the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals Date: Sunday, July 22, 2001 Location: Bandimere Speedway, Morrison, CO After qualifying their two cars 12th and 14th, Etchells Racing teammates Jim Epler and Chuck...

Etchells Racing Excerpts
Final results from the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals

Date: Sunday, July 22, 2001
Location: Bandimere Speedway, Morrison, CO

After qualifying their two cars 12th and 14th, Etchells Racing teammates Jim Epler and Chuck Etchells knew they had a tough assignment in the first round of Sunday's final eliminations of the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals. Not only would they be facing two tough competitors in Tommy Johnson Jr. and Bruce Sarver, but they would be doing so without the benefit of lane choice.

Knowing he would need every advantage in order to advance, Etchells gained nearly two hundredths of a second at the start. Powering down the track, it seemed as if the Sunoco/Matco Camaro was headed to the second round. However, just past the transition point from the concrete to the asphalt, smoke began to billow from behind Etchells race car, indicating a loss of traction. Despite a determined effort by Etchells, it was not enough to hold off a charging Sarver, who gained the narrow victory despite having traction problems of his own near the end.

"I have to take partial blame for today's result. The Sunoco/Matco Camaro was running pretty good, on a pas very similar to last night, which would have easily been enough to win. The crew had corrected the problem that had made the car slow down in the back half, so perhaps we were just a tick too aggressive on our set-up.

"After watching Jim's run, Terry (crew chief Manzer) came back and made some adjustments. This track has a concrete surface for the first 500 feet, and just as the car hit the asphalt, a timer hit and it started to spin the tires really hard. By half-track, it was starting to smoke the tires really hard, and dropped two cylinders. I over corrected and it started to smoke the tires even more, so I decided to pedal it, and Sarver just squeaked by.

"In hindsight, I probably should have kept it wide open. With two holes out, it wouldn't have over revved or blown the engine, and it still might not have been enough to win, but we'll never know. I feel bad for my guys because Dave Hutchens estimated it takes a crew 242 hours to get a race car ready for competition, so I probably justr cost them that much time."

Epler, meanwhile, was looking to put on a good show for the many United Car Care guests in attendance. Standing in his way was a familiar opponent, No. 3 qualifier Tommy Johnson Jr., whom Epler had already raced four times this season, with the two drivers alternating victories in the previous encounters. However, any thoughts of an upset victory dissipated soon after the start, as Epler's car first dropped a cylinder and then smoked tires. Even though Johnson suffered traction problems of his own, Epler's repeated attempts to regain control proved futile, bringing his day to a premature end.

"I felt pretty good this morning, because the United Car Care/Matco Camaro went down the track pretty consistently in qualifying, so we felt we could go down the track and run a low 5.0, that's all we were trying to do. This was our fifth time this season against TJ, and the way things had gone it was our turn to win.

"The only time we had run under these conditions was in the first qualifying session, when we had a completely different set-up and smoked the tires. Unfortunately today, it dropped a cylinder right at the hit of the throttle, which made it so weak that it shook the tires and I had to pedal it. Meanwhile, TJ was way ahead of me, and even though he smoked the tires, it didn't happen until it was way down the track. I gave our car a couple of good shots trying to chase him down but I just couldn't get hooked up.

"The only good part is that United Car Care had about eighty guests in the Etchells Racing hospitality today, and they seemed to have a great time. We're looking for a long-term relationship with the, so I guess we'll have to go get them a win in Seattle!"

-E&ER-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Jim Epler , Chuck Etchells , Tommy Johnson Jr.