Chuck Etchells notched his name into the stone tablet of funny car history back in 1993 when he became the first driver to punch his way into the four second zone in a nitro funny car. On a weekend in Topeka, Kansas when the world was waiting for John Force to do the inevitable, it was Etchells who swooped in for the glory and the historical recognition. Sadly, we got word yesterday at Etchells has passed away at age 61.
His funny car career began in the late 1970s with an ex-Jungle Jim car that had also been campaigned by Bruce Larson. He named the car Future Force and it proved to a prophetic move because over the span of his career Etchells won 13 national events and was considered one of the hardest runners of his day. With backing from Kendall Oil, Etchells made his first “full pull” of the NHRA tour in 1993 and his presence was felt. Between the historic moment in Topeka to being the runner up in the championship points chase, he was right there. During that 1993 season, Etchells became a fan favorite for the fact that his team was running on a lighter budget than many others. Tuned by Tim and Kim Richards, running on lots of Joe Amato “gently used” parts, and running hard enough to scare the grizzled veterans in the sport, they were popular with the people.
On a more personal note, being a New England guy, Etchells was always kind of a hero to many of us. We didn’t have lots of people out there on the professional level mixing it up on a week in and week out basis and he was special on that level. A regular match racer at New England Dragway when his schedule allowed, Etchells’ car was among the first funny cars I ever saw in person.
He had the respect of his peers and the performance to back it up. Chuck Etchells may be gone but his name will live in eternity on the pages of drag racing history books the world over. There’s only one first and Chuck’s was big one.
I read about his passing last night. He was regular fixture at E-town back in the 70’s and 80’s before he hit the big times. Both him and Al Hoffman were always blowing stuff in the early days. It was like oh-oh what’s going to happen when they lined up. I was happy that he made it to the top and became the first in the 4’s. He was a fan favorite at E-town along with Al and also Bruce Larson.
I was there for that historic weekend.I happened to be hanging out at the top end when Jim Epler ran the first 300 mph F/C pass.NHRA brought out their apparatus to see if Eplers car fit the body rules.It didnt fit along the trunk area of the car as the body was to low.Mike Kloeber the crew chief was pissed off.He had the guys lift the body.They did and he hit underneath the trunk area and then they lowered the body.After that the car fit the template. LOL
Appreciate the recollection and personal notes. Etchells debuted the Dodge Avenger body at the Mile High Nationals in July of that year ( I believe that year; I know Etchells had the first Avenger body; never even had it in a wind tunnel and ran a 5.35, as I recall, from the stands that day at Thunder Mountain) and this was an era when there were two stops in Kansas on the tour. Any idea of what Etchells succumbed to?
I remember watching Chuck Etchells at Bristol Tenneessee’s Thunder Valley Dragway and he ran well. I liked his Blue and Black Pontiac Trans Am I believe it was superwinch / Mother’s sponsored back then. He will be missed by many. Condolences to his Family and friends. Gone but Not Forgotten.
Oh, wow…loved Chuck and his Sunoco cars. Always thought of him when I saw the “Putnam” sign on I-84 in Connecticut. Godspeed and RIP…