Denver: Darrell Russell finals summary

Russell conquers Thunder Mountain with second win of the season. DENVER (July 21) -- Just before the final round of Top Fuel at this weekend's 23rd annual Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals, Amato Racing crew chief Wayne Dupuy told his driver...

Russell conquers Thunder Mountain with second win of the season.

DENVER (July 21) -- Just before the final round of Top Fuel at this weekend's 23rd annual Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals, Amato Racing crew chief Wayne Dupuy told his driver Darrell Russell to dig deep and pull one out for the Bilstein Engine Flush System team because he'd done all he could with the tune-up of the race car. It was a do-or-die proposition with the money and the race title on the line.

When the lights flashed, Russell pulled through like a pro and rode a .471 to .527-second starting-line advantage to a huge holeshot win, his second victory of the 2002 POWERade Drag Racing Series. The final numbers showed Russell crossing the finish line in 4.898 seconds at 295.53 mph ahead of McClenathan's quicker 4.877 at 301.07 mph.

Russell, a 33-year-old from Hockley, Texas, has now been to three finals since Dupuy took over the team in Las Vegas. In his two-year career, the reigning Rookie of the Year now has four victories in 10 final-round appearances.

"Wayne said right before the finals the car was right on the edge of smoking the tires," Russell said. "He didn't want to squeeze it any more and give the race away. We knew Cory had the quickest car of every round so Wayne said, 'I hate to put pressure on you kid but this one's on you.'

"I just went in the trailer and spent a little time alone, trying to focus. Joe [Amato, team owner] has won here a bunch and he told me earlier in the day to use the oxygen bottle and drink a bunch of liquids. So that's what I did and it worked to keep me calm. I really didn't change my routine; I was just really focused. I guess it paid off."

The entire Bilstein Engine Flush System crew were a picture of consistency en route to the finals. They cruised through the opening round, beating Scott Weis with a 4.951 at 289.69 mph against Weis' 5.075 at 284.56 mph. Russell then carried lane choice into the quarterfinals where he dismissed Paul Romine with a 4.940 at 284.62 mph in front of Romine's 5.165 at 271.46 mph. The freight train of momentum continued in the semifinals when Russell posted a 4.968 at 289.76 mph to eliminate Melanie Troxel, who closed with a 5.129 at 286.62 mph. Then Russell brought it home for the team in the finals.

"This is quite a race to win because it's one of the older events and it's so tough to gauge the conditions," Russell said. "It's a real testament to this entire Bilstein Engine Flush team and every person in this organization. I'm thrilled for American Racing Wheels, Keystone, Matco Tools, and Valvoline. They're all a big part of this."

Final round coverage of the 23rd annual Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals runs in primetime from 6-9 p.m. (ET), Sunday, on ESPN2, and will be rebroadcast from 2-4 p.m. (ET), Tuesday, July 23, on ESPN2.

-jar-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Paul Romine , Scott Weis , Melanie Troxel