Qualifying for the Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals came to a close under cloudy skies on Saturday, with many teams scrambling to find the proper combination for the potentially fast Seattle International Raceway surface. After ...
Qualifying for the Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals came to a close under cloudy skies on Saturday, with many teams scrambling to find the proper combination for the potentially fast Seattle International Raceway surface. After struggling on Friday, teammates Chuck Etchells and Jim Epler kne improvement would be necessary in order to ensure a position on Sunday's final eliminations ladder.
Etchells erased any doubts about his status for race day with a solid 5.043-second, 301.47 mph pass on his first attempt. This became his best effort when he lost traction on his final pass, placing the Sunoco/Matco Camaro in 14th position and setting the stage for a rematch of last week's first round, when Etchells raced Bruce Sarver.
"This morning's run could actually have been a lot better. Terry (crew chief Manzer) had softened the car way up, because we knew we needed to get down the racetrack and keep ourselves in the show. It ran well early, and the clutch did not lock up until three and a half seconds, after which it broke a pushrod tip and put a cylinder out. Obviously, I was ecstatic with a 5.04 even before I found out we had a mechanical breakage, so it probably would have been a 4.97 or 4.98 without the part failure.
"Tonight we knew the track was getting tighter and tighter, so we went after it, trying to run a '.90 flatmn and we didn't make it, even though I had my best sixty-foot time of the year. The way we look at it, tonight there were only three great runs and two pretty good ones, which is five out of eighteen cars.
"I just hope Terry can make the right call tomorrow, because if he does, we would have a chance against Sarver. We had him by the throat last week in Denver, even though we were in the bad lane. I'm going to be optimistic about tomorrow, because these Funny Car fields have been very close with a lot of upsets - I just hope we're one of them tomorrow."
Richland, Washington native Epler, meanwhile, was beset by bad luck in both sessions, as separate mechanical malfunctions cut short runs that would have placed the United Car Care/Matco Tools Camaro solidly in the field. After suffering a fiery explosion on his first attempt, Epler's crew scrambled to get their race car repaired in time for the last qualifying session. Working furiously, the team arrived in the lanes with time to spare. Once again, Epler seemed on his way, racing down track, when his car was suddenly slowed when the blower belt broke, ending his hopes of racing in front of his hometown fans.
"On my first run today, the car launched well, with a .905 sixty foot time. It then shook, so I gave it a quick pedal. After that, it headed straight down the track when without warning it backfired through the blower, with the flame getting into the fuel tank, blowing it up. It looked bad, but could have been much worse, because many of the part were fine, including the short block, heads and supercharger. Even so, we really had to thrash to get it ready for the next run.
"We were confident of getting ourselves back in the show on our final run, but it went out and shook again. I pedaled it, and it really hooked up, went 244 mph to half track, so it probably would have run a low 5.0, but the belt came off.
"It just wasn't our weekend. It's unfortunate for United Car Care, because that was our last race with them as a major sponsor, but we hope they stay with us in an associate role. They'll have a large crowd here tomorrow, and we'll stay and entertain them and root on Chuck in the Sunoco/Matco Tools Camaro."