The Chuck Etchells Racing Team debuted their new colors with mixed results during Friday's opening qualifying sessions for the Matco Tools Supernationals. After carrying the Sunoco colors for the last two races, Jim Epler returned to his...
The Chuck Etchells Racing Team debuted their new colors with mixed results during Friday's opening qualifying sessions for the Matco Tools Supernationals. After carrying the Sunoco colors for the last two races, Jim Epler returned to his familiar Racing Champions/Matco Tools Camaro, which featured a multi-colored paint scheme for toy store giant Toys R Us. After smoking the tires on his first attempt, Epler called on his driving skills to complete his run during the evening session. Sensing that his racecar was about to smoke the tires, Epler quickly feathered the throttle to maintain traction, covering the quarter-mile in 5.064 seconds with a top speed of 306.12 mph. Although this placed the Phoenix, AZ native 13th midway through qualifying, Epler realized improvement would be necessary to guarantee his participation in Sunday's final eliminations. However, as Epler pointed out, preserving this particular run could be a key to the team's success.
"After I saw Chuck smoke the tires right in front of me, it immediately went through my mind that we had to get further apart in the qualifying order so we could help each other. If I had gone out, shook and shut off, we would have been paired together tomorrow, where we wouldn't have the opportunity to help each other.
"As good as the track was tonight, my car left a little soft and then it shook, so I pedaled it and ran it to about 1200 feet just to get some kind of baseline. We're struggling a little with some new clutch discs, and we need to know what this Toys R Us/Matco Camaro does on a full run, although pedaling it will change that a little bit.
"This weekend is just like we're starting over - it's not just new paint jobs anymore. For example my car had a completely new set of clutch discs, which, although we're still learning about them, are responding better. That's the good part. We've been really struggling with the car's reaction in the first sixty feet, and it has improved in both cars. I really believe we'll have it running back in the '. 80's in the next two runs, which is our goal.
"I'm just thankful we were able to get both runs in - getting rained out could have fouled up our plans. With tonight's runs we got a little closer, and our only concern is not knowing exactly why Chuck's car smoked the tires as it did, but I'm sure we'll get that figured out as well."
As Jim Epler alluded, Chuck Etchells fought to maintain traction on his first two runs in the Sunoco/Matco Tools Camaro, and as a result, found himself looking towards Saturday's time trials for his opportunity to make the show. Although naturally disappointed, Etchells preferred to maintain a philosophical outlook.
"As I said last week, this team is basically starting over, and that includes a lot of new parts. Looking at Jim's run, I'm glad it went down the track, although it's not making nearly enough horsepower. My car had to had something go wrong in the clutch. The motor in my car made just as much power as Jim's, identical to the hundredth of an rpm, but it blew the tires off at the hit.
"There's no doubt our backs are up against the wall, especially with the Sunoco/Matco Camaro, which we haven't been running lately. As much as we try to set our cars up identically, there are always subtle differences. We're dealing with a new combination and our competitors are running in the 4.70's and .80's, so that's what we have to do. It's a huge task, and I hope we're up to it.
"Terry and Larry (Meyer) are working hard to try and get this straightened out as quickly as possible. I know it will be a challenge, because I believe it will be about 4.88 bump, because our fields all year have been within a tenth. Can we muster a 4.80-something? I don't know, but we'll roll the dice and give it our best shot."