Gateway Nationals Chuck Etchells pre-race notes

ETCHELLS SET TO BATTLE MOTHER NATURE AND COMPETITORS IN MADISON Putnam, Conn., June 22, 1998 - As the 1998 NHRA Winston Drag Racing seas on nears its midpoint, Chuck Etchells can take a quick glance in his rear view mirror at a very productive...

ETCHELLS SET TO BATTLE MOTHER NATURE AND COMPETITORS IN MADISON

Putnam, Conn., June 22, 1998 - As the 1998 NHRA Winston Drag Racing seas on nears its midpoint, Chuck Etchells can take a quick glance in his rear view mirror at a very productive first half, with two wins, and very cons istent performances adding up to his current second place standing in the

points chase. But the Kendall Oil/MaMa Rosa's Pizza/Superwinch Camaro Z 28 pilot can afford little time to savor these accomplishments, as this w eekend's 2nd annual Sears Craftsman Nationals has all the makings of anot her classic Funny Car battle. With the usual contingent of over twenty competitors ready to take advantage of any lapses, Etchells knows it will take another strong showing to leave Gateway International Raceway in Mad ison, Illinois with his third national event victory of the year.

"Although we're pleased with our performance so far this year, we know th ere's a long way to go, and our work is far from done," explained Etchells. "We set some high goals for this season, and this team is committedt o making sure we reach them, starting with this weekend in Madison!"

But his fellow racers will not be the only adversaries Chuck Etchells fac es this weekend. The Gateway International Raceway is the second newest on the circuit at just over a year old. This state-of-the-art facility o ffers many amenities to fans and competitors alike. However, the coarse asphalt structure of the racing surface will test the skills of crew chie fs and drivers alike, offering less surface area for the massive racing s licks to grab on to. Combine this challenge with the high heat and humid ity forecast for the St. Louis area this weekend, and the daunting task o f translating the 6,000 horsepower produced by the "floppers" into big sp eed and low elapsed times becomes even greater. Historically, this will favor experienced teams such as the Chuck Etchells crew, where co-crew ch iefs Tim and Kim Richards can first accurately read the track's performan ce characteristics and then adjust their Camaro accordingly. In addition , Etchells' experience behind the wheel will also reap benefits, as a driver's ability is often called upon to keep these short-wheelbased, nitro- burning missiles headed in the right direction.

There is an added benefit to be gained from doing well in this event. Th e Sears Craftsman Nationals is the last event before teams embark on the grueling "West Coast Swing", the NHRA's annual three-races in three weeks

stretch. This period will test a team's endurance, and often distinguis h the true contenders for the Winston Championship. Therefore, any positive momentum gained from a strong run in Madison could set the stage for a successful run over the next month.

"I believe the combination of high heat, high humidity and the track surface could make this a very interesting weekend, where you can expect the unexpected" stated Etchells. "But our team has always excelled at adapting to difficult circumstances. We're going into Madison with the same ga me plan we've had all season - first qualify well, and then focus on keeping lane choice and advancing rounds on Sunday. If we do that, there's a pretty good chance the Kendall Oil/MaMa Rosa's Pizza/Superwinch Camaro Z 28 could finish the day in the winner's circle!"

ETCHELLS EXCERPTS: Etchells is in second place in the Winston Funny Car Points standings, 60 points out of the lead....Etchells will look to make it two victories in two years for the Chevrolet Camaro Z28, as Ron Capps won the inaugural event a year ago.

Fast Facts

WHAT: 2nd Annual Sears Craftsman Nationals, the eleventh of 22 events on the 1998 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series schedule.

WHEN: June 25-28, 1998

WHERE: Gateway International Raceway, Madison, Illinois

SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying sessions start on Friday, June 26 at 3:00 p.m. , with another session at 7:00 p.m., and conclude on Saturday, June 27 wi th two rounds at 11:00 and 3:00 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 28.

TV: ABC will provide one hour of taped coverage from 4-5 p.m. (EDT) on Sunday, July 5. As always, please check your local listings.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Chuck Etchells