Etchells Racing Teammates Chuck Etchells and Jim Epler had mirror image performances during the first day of qualifying for the AutoZone Nationals in Millington, Tennessee. In each case, the driver smoked the tires on one run and completed one...
Etchells Racing Teammates Chuck Etchells and Jim Epler had mirror image performances during the first day of qualifying for the AutoZone Nationals in Millington, Tennessee. In each case, the driver smoked the tires on one run and completed one pass under power.
Team owner Etchells' day was the better of the two. During his opening time trial at Memphis Motorsports Park, a strong run was thwarted by tire smoke at mid-track. However, Etchells bounced back in the evening session to record a solid 5.011-second pass with a top speed of 303.03 mph, good enough for 7th midway through qualifying.
"This is one of the few times this season where we've been in the top half of the field on Friday night. That's an accomplishment in itself, considering there are twenty-one very good Funny Cars here. With our current position in the Winston points, our first run is sometimes almost a throwaway because we are so early in the draw, and we can't see what everyone else is doing.
"This Memphis track has a little bump in the right lane about 200 feet out, after which they've made some repairs, so there was fresh concrete with no rubber on it. On our first run, the Sunoco/Matco Camaro was going down there as smooth as glass, and probably would have been a 5.0 run, which would have changed our approach to the evening session. Unfortunately, it didn't make it, so we had to be a little conservative tonight.
"Even though we ran a 5.01 tonight, it was far from perfect Terry (crew chief Manzer) took a lot of clutch out of it to make sure it would make it down the track. Unfortunately, it blew through the clutch at the hit, which slowed down our sixty-foot time. In addition, it got out of the groove a little at the top end when it went one to one, smoking the tire and mixing cylinders from the 800-foot mark on. There's obviously a lot more in it, which we'll have to tap into tomorrow in order to stay in the top half of the field. It will definitely be an interesting day tomorrow."
Meanwhile, Epler made his debut in the Bass Pro Shops colors a productive one, as he powered down the Memphis quarter-mile in 5.126 seconds with a top speed of 291.57 mph. Looking to improve on this initial attempt on Friday evening, Epler's chances went up in a cloud of tire smoke shortly after launching. However, his first pass was strong enough to place the Bass Pro Shops/Matco Camaro in the provisional 13th spot with two final opportunities remaining on Saturday.
"On the first run, the Bass Pro Shops/Matco Camaro dropped a cylinder after one second. It tried going to the right, so I knew it probably had a cylinder out, but I stayed in it because I wanted to run later in the evening session, and I knew we could use the information about the track from the run. You also never know what's going to happen, so we wanted to post a time that would get us in for now, and it did.
"We found a problem in our engine that was affecting our sixty-foot time. We fixed it, and it picked up our sixty foot time by over three hundredths. Unfortunately we were a little too aggressive, and it shook and smoked the tires. I feel confident we'll be able to pick up the pace tomorrow. This track had very little rubber on it today, which made it extremely tricky. That situation should be improved tomorrow, and weather permitting we'll put up a more representative time.
"Having Bass Pro Shops as the primary sponsor for the car here in the Southeast is really exciting, especially in the Memphis area where fishing is so big. This is also the first time we've had our own merchandise trailer at the track, and it's neat to see the different Bass Pro shirts, hats and die-cast. But tomorrow, our focus will be on getting our two cars in the top half of the field for Sunday."