Etchells Racing Excerpts Final results from the 4th annual Lucas Oil Products NHRA Nationals Despite running a career-best e.t., Epler loses a semi-final heartbreaker in Joliet Date: Sunday, June 3, 2001 Location: Route 66 Raceway, Joliet, ...
Etchells Racing Excerpts
Final results from the 4th annual Lucas Oil Products NHRA Nationals
Despite running a career-best e.t., Epler loses a semi-final heartbreaker in Joliet
Date: Sunday, June 3, 2001
Location: Route 66 Raceway, Joliet, IL
After qualifying 15th on his last attempt on Saturday, Jim Epler knew he would have his work cut out for him in Sunday's final eliminations of the Lucas Oil Products NHRA Nationals in Joliet, IL. Epler's first opponent would be No. 2 qualifier Dean Skuza, who had posted some of the quickest times during qualifying. Running in the less-preferred right lane, the Racing Champions/Matco Tools Camaro pilot grabbed the advantage at the start by over two hundredths of a second and never looked back, using a solid 4.903-second, 305.36 mph run to outpace his opponent's 4.941-second, 251.30 mph effort.
Epler's assignment did not get any easier, as he would face another consistent racer, Tim Wilkerson, in the second round. Once again relegated to the right lane, Epler left at virtually the same instant as his rival. However, the two drivers soon found themselves struggling to keep their cars in the groove and under power. Epler was forced to pedal to maintain traction and avoid the wall, with the resulting malfunction blowing the small burst panel from the nose of his race car. However, he was rewarded for his efforts as his 5.355-second pass was enough to gain the elimination round win.
In the semi-finals, Epler was matched against Del Worsham, who had advanced to the semifinals on the strength of two 4.8 second runs. Once again, the two fuel coupes left as if welded together and powered down the racetrack in unison. In one of the closest contests of the day, Epler's career-best 4.846-second blast was not enough to overcome Worsham's 4.837-second run. Despite the defeat, Epler and the Etchells Racing crew were extremely pleased with the day's results.
"The biggest reason that today was a great day for the Etchells Racing Team was that I think we may have finally turned the corner on performance. Even though we lost that semi-final race to Del, we were ahead at a thousand feet, the car was running really well, was smooth and did everything we wanted it to. It was in the groove the whole time, and we just had a little too much spoiler on it, which hurt our speed. Fortunately, that's an easy fix. I believe we're really close to being able to run in the low 4.80's and 4.70's, which is what you have to do to be competitive in Funny Car.
"It was also important for us to have a good showing for Racing Champions/ERTL and Matco Tools, who each had a huge presence here. Those companies support a lot of those teams in a big way, so it was really neat to have a Racing Champions/Matco car here for them to cheer for. We would have loved to win it for them, but we hope our strong run can be a token of our appreciation."