Joliet II: Darrell Russell Saturday summary

Russell sixth after his fastest lap of the year. CHICAGO (Sept. 28)-- Rookie of the Year Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell took full advantage of one of the quickest racetracks on the NHRA circuit and posted some of the his best numbers of the...

Russell sixth after his fastest lap of the year.

CHICAGO (Sept. 28)-- Rookie of the Year Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell took full advantage of one of the quickest racetracks on the NHRA circuit and posted some of the his best numbers of the NHRA season. Russell cruised down Route 66 Raceway in 4.586 seconds at 321.58 mph during the third round of qualifying for the Craftsman 75th Anniversary Nationals to finish in the No. 6 position heading into race day.

Driving Joe Amato's Bilstein Engine Flush dragster tuned by crew chief Wayne Dupuy, the 34-year-old Russell posted his best pass in the heat of the day Saturday to rocket up the elimination ladder. Only six drivers carded 4.5-second passes this weekend.

"It's great to shoot out the lights on Friday night and post a hero number like some of these guys did," Russell said." But the reality is you want to run well during the day when you're racing under the same conditions that you'll probably see on Sunday when the elimination rounds start. That's why we're all very excited in the Bilstein Engine Flush pit right now because the car ran strong when we needed it to today.

"It was very important to run quick enough to be in the top half of the field. Lane choice can be critical here so it's nice to know we're starting race day with it. I think it'll take 4.5-second laps to win this race, I really do, mainly because of the importance of lane choice here. You need to run quick enough to win each round plus maintain lane choice. It's that important."

Russell will open his pursuit of his fourth victory of the season against John Smith, who qualified 11th with a final-round effort of 4.651 at 311.92 mph. Russell and Smith have split the four head-to-head races they've had over the last year and a half.

With just four races left in the POWERade Drag Racing Series, Russell is in the middle of a fierce battle in the championship points standings. He is currently fifth, trailing Cory McClenathan by just 17 points and third-place points earner Tony Schumacher by 132 points. At the same time, Doug Kalitta is just 18 points back in sixth place with Doug Herbert following in seventh, 53 points behind Russell.

The elimination rounds of this weekend's second annual Craftsman 75th Anniversary Nationals presented by Racing Champions will air from 8-10:30 p.m. (ET), Sunday, on ESPN2, with a rebroadcast from 4-6 a.m. (ET), Wednesday, Oct. 2, also on ESPN2.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Doug Kalitta , Cory McClenathan