PUTNAM, Conn. -- Team owner Chuck Etchells today announced that he had decided to return to full-time active competition in 2001, ending his brief two-year retirement. Etchells' first official race back in the Kendall Oil/Matco Tools Camaro Z28 Funny Car will be next February at the 41st annual AutoZone Winternationals in Pomona, California. Etchells' decision to climb back in the driver's seat came shortly after learning that his selected driver would in fact be joining another team.
"We are fortunate to have some very talented people on our staff who can pick up the slack and allow me to resume driving," said Etchells. "It is going to be an interesting winter, but I'm excited and looking forward to getting back behind the wheel. I promise this Kendall Oil/Matco Tools Camaro team is going to have fun next year, and everyone involved is ready to do whatever we need to make the 2001 season a memorable one."
As a thirteen-time NHRA national event winner, the 1990 IHRA World Champion, and the first driver to post a four second elapsed time in a Nitro Funny Car, Etchells' competitive credentials are beyond reproach. In addition, his experience both on and off the track will bring an extra measure of stability to a team that many see as a contender for the 2001 championship. More importantly, as the man most readily identified with the Kendall/Matco Tools Camaro, Etchells feels this scenario will provide the greatest benefit for his many loyal corporate sponsors.
"We have a long-term plan here at Etchells Racing that we are all committed to, and in the big picture this most recent development had little effect," explained Etchells. "Therefore our primary concern after learning about Tommy Johnson's departure was to reassure our sponsors and show them our intent and ability to move forward as planned."
Since the end of the 2000 NHRA Winston Drag Racing season three weeks ago, Etchells and the Kendall Oil/Matco Tools Racing team had been hard at work readying their Camaro for the 2001 campaign. However, these preparations took an entirely new direction earlier this week with Johnson's sudden and unexpected announcement. Etchells took the news in stride, preferring to chalk it up as proof of the sport's sudden expansion.
"We had a one-year handshake agreement with Tommy Johnson Jr. to drive for Etchells Racing in 2001, which we fully expected to honor," stated Etchells. "Our efforts since Pomona have reflected this intent, including flying TJ out to California a week ago to fit him to the racecar.
"However, in the meantime Tommy was approached by several teams, with one
finally offering him a multi-year contract for what I understand was a
substantial amount of money, which he chose to accept. Although I am
disappointed by this turn of events, I wish him well - except, of course,
when he faces the Kendall/Matco Camaro!"
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