Streak intact, Russell hopes No. 13 proves lucky GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 16) -- Sophomore Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell successfully qualified his Bilstein Engine Flush Systems dragster in the elimination field of the 33rd annual Mac Tools ...
Streak intact, Russell hopes No. 13 proves lucky
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 16) -- Sophomore Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell successfully qualified his Bilstein Engine Flush Systems dragster in the elimination field of the 33rd annual Mac Tools Gatornationals, keeping alive his perfect streak of 27 consecutive races as a professional driver. Unfortunately, the team's recent spate of struggles also continued, relegating them to 13th place on the elimination ladder.
"It's a real testament to the entire Bilstein Engine Flush team and everyone at Joe Amato Racing that we've been able to qualify at every national event since I've turned pro," Russell said. "There's only a handful of teams this consistent. It's not an accident; it's a case of several professionals working their butts off to give me a great race car week in and week out. I'm just the lucky guy who gets to have fun on Sunday.
"Having said that, I can tell you that every single member of this crew from Joe on down is sorely disappointed that we continue to struggle this year. We really haven't made a run yet that we're exceptionally proud of. Our goal is the same -- we want to win the POWERade Championship, and the season is still young enough that we can catch up and accomplish our goal. But it's time to get moving and we're all very aware of that."
Russell never made a perfect pass down historic Gainesville Raceway during the four qualifying sessions. His best effort was a laboring 4.884 at 297.75 mph, which seeds him in the bottom half of the ladder and sets up a first round sudden-death match-up with No. 4 qualifier Doug Kalitta, who posted a steady 4.702 at 313.07 mph Friday. Russell and Kalitta have raced six times with each driver winning three times.
"We'll have our hands full right away," Russell said. "Doug made more than one pass down this tricky race track and I'm sure he'll be ready for us. I know we're closing in on the tune-up that will take us to the next level. At some point we're going to find it. Hopefully, it's Sunday morning at 11 o'clock when the racing starts.
Saturday's qualifying action can be seen on ESPN2 from 8-10 p.m. (ET) and again from 4:30 to 6 a.m. Sunday morning. The elimination rounds air from 5-7 p.m., Sunday, also on ESPN2, with a repeat showing from 2:30-4:30 p.m. Tuesday.