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NHRA: Etchells Report from Rockingham and Funny Car Standings

10 April 1998


ROCKINGHAM, North Carolina, April 6, 1998 - There is an old saying that
states "To be the best, you have to beat the best."  This past weekend at
Rockingham Dragway, Chuck Etchells and his Kendall Oil/MaMa Rosa's
Pizza/Superwinch Racing Team put this theory to the test.  In the first
round, Etchells upset John Force and snapped his string of consecutive
Winston Invitational wins at three.  This set the stage for a second-round
meeting with the hottest Funny Car pilot over the last few weeks, national
elapsed time record holder Cruz Pedregon, who had reset the track record in
claiming the top qualifying spot.  Staging in the less-preferred right lane,
Etchells knew it would take a perfect run to advance to the final.  When the
lights on the tree turned green, Etchells' Chevy shot ahead, seeming on its
way to victory.  However, problems arose that slowed his march, allowing
Pedregon to edge by for the win.  

"That's tough.  We had him dead to rights," stated Etchells afterwards.  "I
was able to get a hundredth on him at the start, and it launched hard.  It
was on a great run, not spinning the tires at all, when it suddenly dropped
a cylinder on the 2-4-6-8 side at about 300 feet.  My guess is we had too
much fuel volume.  I saw Cruz go by through my side window and open up about
a two-car length lead.  I stayed in it, when suddenly the cylinder kicked
back in around a thousand feet, and my Camaro took off like a shot.  I was
able to cut it down to a car length, but just ran out of room."

Already tightened by the eight-car limit for Sunday's eliminations,
qualifying for this year's event took on added pressure when rain cancelled
the first qualifying round on Friday.  This meant each run would be
invaluable, not only for setting a fast time, but extracting valuable track
information.  The first session in the cool nighttime air on Friday night
had many struggling to find traction.  Although Etchells' Tim Richards-tuned
mount was able to power down the lane, a problem with the magnetos slowed
them to a 5.35 elapsed time, good enough for a provisional, but precarious,
third spot.  Etchells maintained this position by improving to a 4.97 with
his effort on Saturday morning.  When the narrow groove in the right lane
did not hold his attempt at the top spot in the afternoon, Etchells found
himself fifth, and facing John Force in the first round on Sunday.

Sunday's weather was unlike the previous two days, featuring blue skies and
warmer temperatures.  

With the advantage of lane choice, Force selected the left side.  Etchells'
assignment proved even tougher when his opponent gained a slight advantage
at the start.  However, Etchells full-power pass was able to easily defeat
the defending Funny Car champion, whose car had lost traction at mid-track.
The team had little time to celebrate their victory, as they had to prepare
for their confrontation with Pedregon in less than ninety minutes.

"Whenever you're able to defeat John Force, you've accomplished something,"
said Etchells.  "Naturally, we were here to win, but it was another solid
weekend for the Kendall Oil/MaMa Rosa's Pizza/Superwinch team.  Besides,
we're happy that we were able to participate in this event and thank Winston
for all they've done for us - I can't emphasize that enough."

In the final, Cruz Pedregon defeated a tire-smoking Ron Capps to gain his
first Winston Invitational victory.  The NHRA tour now pauses for the Easter
holiday before heading to Atlanta Dragway for the Fram Nationals April 16-19.

Funny Car Points Standings (As of 4/5/98):
 1. C. Pedregon       302 
 2. Chuck Etchells    300 
 3. R. Capps	      298
 4. J. Force	      281 
 5. T. Pedregon	      277 
 6. R. Anderson	      229 
 7. A. Hofmann	      225 
 8. D. Skuza	      213
 9. T. Wilkerson      211 
10. W. Bazemore	      150

Big Bud Shootout Standings (As of 4/5/98):  

 1. Chuck Etchells	   1505 
 2. J. Force		   1480
 3. A. Hofmann		   1445 
 4. T. Pedregon		   1435 
 5. R. Capps		   1395 
 6. D. Skuza		   1285 
 7. W. Bazemore		   1195 
 8. R. Anderson		   1170
 9. G. Densham		   1070 
10. D. Worsham		    960