Sears Point Etchells Preview

ETCHELLS' CREW BURNS MIDNIGHT OIL TO BE READY FOR SONOMA Putnam, Conn., July 21, 1998 - As the second stop on the NHRA's Western swing, this weekend's Autolite Nationals at Sears Point Raceway poses a series of unique challenges to its ...


Putnam, Conn., July 21, 1998 - As the second stop on the NHRA's Western swing, this weekend's Autolite Nationals at Sears Point Raceway poses a series of unique challenges to its competitors. First, there is the time factor. Crews will have to perform the normal between-race maintenance on their racecar and equipment and travel the over 1,200 miles from Denver, site of the last race, to the California wine country in just over three days. In addition, their assignment is further complicated by the radical change in environments. Leaving the extreme altitude and thin air of Colorado, the world's fastest quarter-milers will now be forced to totally reconfigure their set-ups for competing at sea level. Finally, there is the Sears Point Raceway surface, which features an extremely short concrete launch pad, making a smooth transition to the asphalt a virtual requirement for success. As if this were not enough, the Kendall Oil/MaMa Rosa's Pizza/Superwinch Camaro Z28 Racing team must also contend with the pressure of a championship battle and a damaged race car, the result of a second- round mishap at the last event. Although a source of concern, Chuck Etchells is confident in the ability of this veteran team to get the job done.

"Obviously, the condition of the racecar is foremost in our minds," stated Etchells. "With the compressed schedule, I'm hoping we'll have enough time to fix it properly. But, knowing the General (co-crew chief Tim Richards) and the rest of my crew, they will do whatever it takes to have our Camaro Z28 ready to run at Sears Point."

Etchells' statement proved well founded. Following last Sunday's final eliminations, fans headed home and most racers packed up and headed towards Sonoma. The Etchells team, however, worked late into the night, long after the winner's circle celebrations had ended. In the middle of a dark and silent pit area they started the long and arduous process of first evaluating what repairs would be necessary, and then implementing them. Measurements were made, new pieces of tubing were cut and then welded in place of damaged pieces. The front suspension was checked for any bent linkages. Attention was also given to the carbon-fiber body, from removing decals to sanding, straightening and smoothing the affected areas so the delicate repair procedure could be completed. Arrangements were made to fly someone in to repair the intricate framework supporting the body. Conversation was at a minimum, for there was work to be done. Without this effort, their driver would have little chance to improve upon his runner-up finish at this event in 1994. Their motivation was based on a commitment to winning and the knowledge that a California victory would propel them once again into the Winston championship points lead.

"Hopefully the racing this weekend will be better for the fans and for the competitors," said Etchells. "If the unbearable heat we've seen at the last few events follows us to California, it will again turn into a crapshoot. That could tilt the odds in our favor, because we usually do well in those conditions. But our main priority is to maintain the consistency that has kept this Kendall Oil/MaMa Rosa's Pizza/Superwinch Camaro Z28 near the top. The best way I know to reward this crew for their hard work is to end up in the winner's circle on Sunday, and I'll do my best to get them there!"


Etchells - Pre-Sonoma 2-2-2

ETCHELLS EXCERPTS: Etchells performance Denver places him in second place in the Winston Funny Car Points standings, only 1 point out of the lead..... Etchells looks to improve on his runner-up finish at this event in 1994.... Should he win this weekend's event, Etchells will grab the points lead for the second time this season.

Fast Facts

WHAT: 11th Annual Autolite Nationals, the thirteenth of 22 events on the 1998 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series schedule.

WHEN: July 24-26, 1998

WHERE: Sears Point Raceway, Sonoma, California

SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying sessions start on Friday, July 24 at 3:00 p.m., with another session at 7:00 p.m., and conclude on Saturday, July 25 with two rounds at 11:00 and 3:00 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 26.

TV: ESPN2 will provide two hours of qualifying highlights from 10-12 midnight (EDT) on Saturday, July 25, and two hours of live final round coverage on Sunday, July 26 from 7:30-9:30 p.m.. As always, please check your local listings.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tim Richards