Denver: Darrell Russell Saturday summary

Russell's steady dragster a true contender. DENVER (July 20) -- Showing amazing consistency where most teams have struggled, Darrell Russell and crew chief Wayne Dupuy are proving to have one of the best cars at this weekend's 23rd annual Mopar...

Russell's steady dragster a true contender.

DENVER (July 20) -- Showing amazing consistency where most teams have struggled, Darrell Russell and crew chief Wayne Dupuy are proving to have one of the best cars at this weekend's 23rd annual Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals. Riding Dupuy's consistent tune-up, Russell has shrugged off the handicap of Bandimere Speedway's altitude as well as weekend-long temperatures in the high 90s to complete three of his four qualifying passes under power. His best pass -- a 4.821 at 301.87 mph -- placed him third in the field.

"It's kind of nice when you can let your car do the talking for you," Russell said. "The way Wayne has this Bilstein Engine Flush System dragster running right now says a lot about the depth and experience of this crew and this race team. [Team owner] Joe Amato has won here six times as a driver. We'd love to help him get his first win as a team owner.

"Racing in Denver is a whole different deal. You can't use any of your data from the other tracks because it just doesn't apply up here. Even so, we're running like we haven't missed a beat. In the last eight races we've qualified in the top half six times. Plus, we've been one of the top four cars at five of the last six races and it's really nice to keep that streak alive here. It tells me we have a car that is very capable of going rounds on Sunday."

This will be the 37th consecutive race for the 33-year-old Russell, the NHRA's reigning Rookie of the Year. Since turning pro at the start of 2001, Russell has successfully qualified for every race he's entered. He is currently fifth in the POWERade championship points standings and has one victory in two final-round appearances this season.

Russell will begin his search for his first victory on Thunder Mountain, as Bandimere Speedway is widely known, against No. 14 qualifier Scott Weis. The former Funny Car racer posted a best pass of 5.147 seconds at 263.92 mph. Russell and Weis have raced each other five times with Russell holding a slight 3-2 advantage.

"We need to stay focused from the start," Russell said. "When we won in Topeka we never looked past the next round, and that's the same game plan we'll use here. To win the race you have to beat everyone so it doesn't matter who's in the other lane. The way I look at it, if you're good enough to qualify, you're good enough to win, so we won't be taking anyone lightly. We'll race the track and the conditions and see what happens. I know my team will give me a great car every round and I'll be doing the best I can. That's all we can do."

ESPN will carry the qualifying rounds of the 23rd annual Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals from 7:30-9 p.m. (ET), Saturday. Final round coverage runs in primetime from 6-9 p.m. (ET), Sunday, on ESPN2, and will re-air from 2-4 p.m. (ET), Tuesday, July 23, on ESPN2.

-jar-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Joe Amato