Englishtown: Pre-race notes and quotes

* CHUCK ETCHELLS GETS SUNOCO SPONSORSHIP FOR 2001: Team owner Chuck Etchells announced that he has reached an agreement with Sunoco, Inc., in which the major gasoline and convenience store chain will assume the primary sponsorship of Etchells'...

* CHUCK ETCHELLS GETS SUNOCO SPONSORSHIP FOR 2001: Team owner Chuck Etchells announced that he has reached an agreement with Sunoco, Inc., in which the major gasoline and convenience store chain will assume the primary sponsorship of Etchells' Funny Car. Effective immediately, the car will be known as the Sunoco/Matco Tools Camaro Z28. This sponsorship is for the remainder of the 2001 season.

"It is not an exaggeration to say that the Etchells Racing team was facing the distinct possibility of going out of the drag racing business," said Etchells, a 13-time national event winner. "We had pared back our operation over the last few weeks and were looking for ways to stay afloat. Simply put, Sunoco stepped up and saved my career. Our partnership will allow us to build our two-car operation back to the level for which our team is known.

With races scheduled on five of six weekends, the Etchells Racing team were forced to temporarily adopt an unusual operating procedure in order to field two cars.

For the Bristol and Atlanta races Etchells' teammate, Jim Epler, competed in the Funny Car using the Sunoco/Matco Tools body. Etchells made limited attempts in the Motley Crue/Matco Tools Camaro. The reasoning behind this was the strategy that Epler had a better chance of qualifying for the Budweiser Shootout, a special program for Funny Cars held in Indianapolis. When the new Sunoco/Matco Tools paint scheme debuts in Englishtown, Etchells will be behind the wheel.

* FUNNY CAR DRIVER JOHNNY GRAY MAKES CREW CHIEF CHANGE: Veteran crew chief Wayne Dupuy has been brought on board by Johnny Gray Racing to begin tuning the team's Pontiac Firebird Funny Car at the NHRA Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals, May 3-6. Dupuy will be replacing crew chief Rick Cassel, who was let go by Gray after last weekend's race at Bristol, Tennessee. "I enjoyed working with Rick," said Gray, "he's a super nice guy but our combination was not working and it was time to make a move."

Dupuy has been tuning nitro cars since 1989 and has scored victories in both Funny Car and Top Fuel. The 37-year-old father of three last visited the NHRA winner's circle in 1999 when he tuned Phil Burkart Jr. to the Funny Car victory in Columbus. Last season, Dupuy worked with three different drivers in the Nitro Fish-sponsored ride, including Burkart, Todd Paton and Cristen Powell. Dupuy wrenched Paton to the No. 1 qualifying spot at the inaugural event in Las Vegas and advanced to the semifinals twice during the year. He also tuned Top Fuel pilot Don Lampus to a career-best 4.58/321-mph run in Houston as well

"It's going to be tough for Dupuy to come in here with someone else's tune up and try to figure this deal out," commented Gray, "but I definitely have the confidence in him to get the job done. We'll head to Atlanta and see if we can get our act sorted out.

* FRANK PEDREGON TO RUN PONTIAC FIREBIRD WITH SPECIAL PAINT SCHEME IN ENGLISHTOWN: "Yes, it will be a very big weekend for us (IN New Jersey)," said Pedregon's teammate Del Worsham. "We're doing a series of one-time-only bodies on our Funny Cars throughout the 2001 season, some on Frankie's car and some on mine. In Englishtown Frankie will be driving a cool looking car that features a company called 3-A Racing Products. For one race we've repainted Frankie's Pontiac body and 3-A gets to be the main sponsor. They make accessory parts to jazz up your street car, like chrome exhaust tips and things like that, so their customer base is certainly right in our target market. The body will only run in Englishtown, then it will be repainted into another special car for Frankie. Our primary sponsor, Checker Schuck's Kragen, will sell 24th scale collectibles of the car, made by Action, in their stores. It's a really cool deal, and the car is incredible to see."

* ANGELLE SAVOIE GOES FOR FOURTH STRAIGHT ENGLITOWN VICTORY: Team Winston Suzuki rider Angelle Savoie (formerly Angelle Seeling) will attempt to win her fourth consecutive race at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J.

The 2000 NHRA Winston Pro Stock Motorcycle champion has 16 career victories, ranking her fifth on the all-time win list in the two-wheel category. She is just two wins behind the legendary Shirley Muldowney for the most victories ever by a female in NHRA Winston Drag Racing competition.

* LARRY DIXON WINSTON POINTS LEADER FOR FIRST TIME IN OVER THREE YEARS: Miller Lite dragster driver Larry Dixon left Bristol, Tenn., atop the Winston points standings for the first time in three years. Dixon has used a consistent performance and a win in Gainesville, Fla. to sit atop the field. Through the first six events of the 2001 season, there were five different Top Fuel winners with Doug Kalitta being the only one to repeat.

"I think the goal of every racer is to go into a race weekend looking to gather as many points as you can," says Dixon, one of three drivers for team owner Don Prudhomme. "We haven't won the most races, but we have earned the most points. I would be happier if it was Nov. 12 (the day after the season ends), but for now we just need to focus on going to (the next race) and make a strong showing there."

Dixon was the winner of the Englishtown event in his rookie year in 1995, and was the runner-up to Joe Amato in 1996.

* YOUNGER BERNSTEIN CONTINUES WINNING WAYS: After Brandon Bernstein and father Kenny Bernstein became the first father-son duo to win in their respective categories (Federal-Mogul dragster for the younger Bernstein, and Top Fuel for the elder), Brandon continued his winning ways by winning the sportsman event held in Bakersfield, Calif. behind the wheel of his Bud dragster. It was the second win in a row for the son of the five-time Winston champ.

"We must have had a little bit of a lucky horseshoe left from Las Vegas," said Brandon. "It was a great weekend. We had the car dialed in after the first round and we just hauled the mail. We are ecstatic. Two victories in a row, it must be a dream. Those Budweiser's sure taste extra good in the winner's circle."

* FUNNY CAR DRIVER RON CAPPS AFTER SCORING THIRD STRAIGHT WIN FOR PRODHOMME RACING: Ron Capps recently won the inaugural event in Bristol, Tenn., giving team owner Don "the Snake" Prudhomme three straight wins (Tommy Johnson Jr. in Las Vegas, and Larry Dixon in Gainesville, Fla.). It was the first NHRA points race in Bristol since 1967.

"All week back at home in California we had been talking about the old Bristol races and I was two years old when Snake won the last race here in '67," said Capps. "That shows you what kind of legend Don Prudhomme is. It's amazing how much (people) remember because it was unbelievable in front of our pit area. There were fans looking for Snake, looking to get old pictures signed. (Snake) gives me a great life, so to give him a thrill like this, I wish I could do this every weekend. It's awesome to get the third straight win for Prudhomme Racing. It's a tribute to the depth of our team, it really is."

-NHRA

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Series NHRA
Drivers Shirley Muldowney , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Jim Epler , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , Joe Amato , Doug Kalitta , Todd Paton , Don Prudhomme , Phil Burkart , Brandon Bernstein , Johnny Gray , Don Lampus , Tommy Johnson Jr. , Cristen Powell