Houston: Chuck Etchells Racing Saturday pit notes

Date: Saturday, March 24, 2001 Location: Houston Raceway Park, Baytown, TX Qualifying for the O'Reilly Nationals proved to be quite a challenge for the Chuck Etchells Racing Team. Working tirelessly to find a combination that would tame the ...

Date: Saturday, March 24, 2001
Location: Houston Raceway Park, Baytown, TX

Qualifying for the O'Reilly Nationals proved to be quite a challenge for the Chuck Etchells Racing Team. Working tirelessly to find a combination that would tame the Houston Raceway Park surface, the crew's efforts were thwarted by dropped cylinders and tire shake. Once all four runs had been completed, the team found themselves having only one car to prepare for Sunday's final eliminations.

After opening with a solid 5.019-second, 308.07 mph effort, Chuck Etchells struggled to improve his spot on Sunday's final eliminations ladder. After shutting off early on his second and third attempt, Etchells made his final qualifying run down the Houston quarter-mile his best. The resulting 4.983-second, 308.21 mph effort placed the Kendall Oil/Matco Tools Camaro 14th and set the stage for a first-round encounter with rival John Force.

"We learned a lot in testing earlier in the week, but the conditions here this weekend seemed to set us back a little bit. We're trying to get these cars under control. Right now, they either want to run a 4.85 or nothing at all. We came out of the box and did exactly what we wanted to with a nice, conservative and safe 5.01, and thought we could move forward from there.

"Between last night's and tonight's sessions, we probably had as good a track as we'd had all season. Although I'm not a crew chief, it seems as though our problem is either that we're not slipping the clutch enough, or we're not making enough power, which is unusual for this set-up. That's what I'm feeling as a driver.

"For tomorrow, we can thank the big guy upstairs that both lanes seem to be equal. Obviously, we'll be facing a car that performed much better than our Kendall/Matco Camaro did here. I believe that at the very minimum we are going to have to find a tenth in order to even have a shot at getting out of the first round. (Terry) Manzer, (Larry) Meyer and the crew are well aware of that, and that's what they're going to be working on tonight."

For Jim Epler and the Motley Crue/Matco Tools Camaro Racing Team, the news was not as good. In three of his four attempts, Epler had to battle to simply keep his car on the track, as a series of dropped cylinders pulled his car to the side. Unfortunately, his best elapsed time of 5.104 seconds, which came on his final attempt, fell just shy of being in the top sixteen required to participate in Sunday's final eliminations.

"We were trying to figure these new clutch discs out in testing, and I believe we made a lot of progress that helped both cars. It may not have shown it here this weekend, but it really did. We came here with the game plan of trying to be conservative and just go down the track, improving on each run. To be honest, we're not used to running that way, and we got behind from the get go.

"Our biggest problem was dropping cylinders. If you can't get the engine consistent, then it's really hard to tune, and on every run we seemed to drop cylinders. But this is a good team, and we're going to rebound. It's a big disappointment for Motley Crue, and it's certainly not the way we wanted to head into Las Vegas, where we won last year. But we're going to stay here and test on Monday, and we'll keep working at it until we get it right."

-Etchells Racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Epler , John Force , Chuck Etchells