The first day of qualifying for the rescheduled Pep Boys NHRA Nationals saw teammates Chuck Etchells and Jim Epler each have strong starts. On his first attempt, Epler powered his Bass Pro Shops/Matco Tools Camaro Funny Car down the Pennsylvania...
The first day of qualifying for the rescheduled Pep Boys NHRA Nationals saw teammates Chuck Etchells and Jim Epler each have strong starts. On his first attempt, Epler powered his Bass Pro Shops/Matco Tools Camaro Funny Car down the Pennsylvania quarter-mile in 4.896-seconds with a top speed of 305.01 mph. Etchells kept pace with a solid 4.915-second, 302.48 mph blast of his own in the Sunoco/Matco Tools Camaro. Although each smoked the tires on their second runs, their initial efforts placed the veteran duo 7th and 9th midway through time trials at Maple Grove Raceway.
"It's been quite a while since both Etchells Racing cars has strong runs right out of the box, so it was great to do so today," stated Epler. "Ironically, my car dropped a cylinder about 800 feet into that first run, so it might have been even better than the 4.89. Even so, we're thrilled to have the Bass Pro Shops/Matco Camaro in 7th on Friday. That takes some of the pressure off.
"On the second run, we used new tires and they didn't respond the way Roland (crew chief Leong) wanted them to. We've had a problem recently with chunking, so we normally like to use a set that has a run on them, but we weren't able to in the second session. The forecast is calling for cooler weather tomorrow, and we'll have our broken-in tires ready to run, so I'm looking for us to step up. It would be nice to get both our cars qualified in the top half of the field."
Etchells was particularly pleased with the positive results, as this weekend's race is held a short drive away from primary sponsor Sunoco's headquarters in Philadelphia.
"There's no question that the Sunoco/Matco crew is catching up on our clutch program. We changed directions three or four races ago, and I've been feeling it get better and better. It could not have come out of the box any better than it did today - it was nearly perfect. There's a bump in the left lane, and after hitting it, it spun the tires really hard from the lock-up to the finish line, so that run could have been a lot better.
"All we tried to do tonight was repeat that run without spinning the tires, which would have been in the mid 4.80s. I don't think the right lane was quite as good for the second session since it had more sun on it. I also think we were a hair too aggressive. It was really smooth and didn't shake, but we just had too much wheel speed for the conditions.
"Tomorrow will be a whole new day. It's supposed to be much cooler, the track will be even tighter, so we wouldn't have learned a lot from tonight's run that we could have used tomorrow. We'll simply have to run better and get back in the top half.
"It's great to have such a good start in front of the Sunoco folks, because they have been great to us this year. We have Charlie Valis, Paul Schwab and some people from their staff here, so we want to do well for them. There's not really any extra pressure, but it would be really cool to win the race here in Reading for them."