Chuck Etchells made a dramatic return to the world of NHRA Winston Drag Racing by advancing to the semi-finals of the AutoZone Winternationals. After qualifying 8th, Etchells used victories over Del Worsham and No. 1 qualifier Tommy Johnson Jr.
Chuck Etchells made a dramatic return to the world of NHRA Winston Drag Racing by advancing to the semi-finals of the AutoZone Winternationals. After qualifying 8th, Etchells used victories over Del Worsham and No. 1 qualifier Tommy Johnson Jr. to extend his Pomona Raceway winning streak to six rounds, including his win at the 1998 Winston Finals. However, facing Tony Pedregon in the semi-final, Etchells was at a distinct disadvantage as he would have to run in the less-preferred right lane.
Trying to minimize his opponent's advantage, Etchells used a strong reaction time to gain the lead by three hundredths of a second at the starting line. However, Pedregon was able to overcome Etchells' headstart and seemed headed towards an easy win when his car suddenly threw the blower belt. As they neared the finish line, a determined Etchells was furiously trying to make up the lost ground, but simply ran out of room. Despite the immediate disappointment, Etchells was pleased with his team's performance on race day.
"After the mess that we went through between the Tucson test session and here, followed by absolute disaster on Saturday when we weren't able to get Jim's (teammate Epler) car, to have one car get to the semi-finals is a real achievement. It was really great to putting the Kendall/Matco Camaro in the semis. There were twenty-eight Funny Cars here, and we were hanging in there until the last four. I was also really happy considering I hadn't driven the car in two years. I feel even better going forward.
"On the last run against Tony, I was thinking to myself that this car is going to smoke the tires when it welds, because it wasn't running quick enough. I've never driven a (crew chief) Terry Manzer tune-up before, but I'll tell you, it's a great hot rod to drive. It almost talks to you, and to learn that in three or four runs bodes well for our future together. Terry and I communicate really well - I almost know how he's thinking and how he's setting the car up, and I think he learned a lot about my driving this weekend. II think we have a really good future together, and I'm excited about that.
"We set a goal last night, and as dumb as it sounded with our team in disarray, not being able to get one car to the line for the last qualifying session, we made it our objective to get the Kendall/Matco Camaro to the semi-finals. I know some of the crew guys looked at us as if we were nuts, but we did it, and now our goal is to win some races.
"So now it's on to Phoenix. But this weekend shows us we have a lot of work to do. We have to get our personnel structure in place from the top on down. We are short some crew guys, which really showed here, and we have some issues we have to address between here and Phoenix. We have to get the Racing Champions/Matco Tools Camaro running better, and we have to get better organized, and we'll do that."