Indianapolis: Darrell Russell U.S. Nationals preview

Russell coolly eyes drag racing's biggest prize. INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 28) -- Forgoing the usual fawning drag racers annually display for the title of the sport's biggest race -- this weekend's U.S. Nationals -- Top Fuel racer Darrell Russell has a...

Russell coolly eyes drag racing's biggest prize.

INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 28) -- Forgoing the usual fawning drag racers annually display for the title of the sport's biggest race -- this weekend's U.S. Nationals -- Top Fuel racer Darrell Russell has a more simplistic approach. "I feel really good about this race," said Russell, who has three victories this year including two in the last four events. "I think we have a really good shot at winning it."

Perhaps Russell's laidback approach is a result of his having already won straight-line racing's most prestigious event, a feat he accomplished in 1997 in his family-owned Top Alcohol Dragster. Or maybe it has something to do with the fact his car's owner, Top Fuel legend Joe Amato, captured three Indy titles in 1987, '88, and '90. It could even be that Russell was quickest in testing last Tuesday, peeling off a 4.656 at 316.78 mph.

"I don't know," Russell said to reiterate. "I just have a really good feeling about this race."

There's no reason not to count Russell among the race favorites. Since crew chief Wayne Dupuy took over the Bilstein Engine Flush System dragster in early April, Russell has accumulated one of the best won-loss records in the class (22-10), earning more POWERade championship points then anyone except four-time winner Kenny Bernstein and seven-time champ Larry Dixon. Over that same time span, Russell has skyrocketed from 13th place to fourth, just 29 points, or a little more than one round, out of third place.

"What started out as a disaster turned out to be one of the best things that could have happened for us," Russell said. "Three races in I didn't know if I'd see Indy. Now, we arrive with all the confidence in the world that we can run with any team out there.

"I credit Joe Amato for his leadership, Marty Yacoobian (owner of Bilstein Engine Flush) for his undying support, and Wayne and the crew for their endless hours of hard work. That's why we're here and that's why we're running as strong as we have been. Plus, all of our other sponsors have stuck with us. It means a lot. It makes you want to work that much harder to show them we appreciate what they do for us, both in good times and in bad. Drag racing at this level is tough, that's what makes winning so rewarding. Hopefully, we can reward ourselves, and all of our supporters, with a big weekend in Indy."

ESPN2 will broadcast a record 17 hours of coverage of this year's U.S. Nationals. Qualifying highlights will be shown from 12-1 p.m. (ET), Saturday, and from 1-4 p.m. (ET) and 9:30 p.m.-midnight (ET), Sunday. Elimination round coverage starts at 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (ET), Monday, with the later rounds airing from 4:30-7:30 p.m. (ET), Monday evening. A repeat of the race will be shown from 2-5 a.m. (ET), Tuesday, and again from 3-5:30 p.m. (ET), Saturday, Sept. 7.

-jar-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Joe Amato