Las Vegas: Darrell Russell eliminations report

First round win propels Russell into Top 10. LAS VEGAS (April 7) -- A memorable and emotional quarterfinal finish at today's SummitRacing.com Nationals has lifted driver Darrell Russell and Joe Amato's Bilstein Engine Flush System Top Fuel ...

First round win propels Russell into Top 10.

LAS VEGAS (April 7) -- A memorable and emotional quarterfinal finish at today's SummitRacing.com Nationals has lifted driver Darrell Russell and Joe Amato's Bilstein Engine Flush System Top Fuel dragster into the elite Top 10 of the POWERade championship points standings for the first time this season.

Russell's Round 1 victory, the first of the year for the team, was quite a feat considering all but two of the crewmen working on the car were new to the operation. Still, crew chief Wayne Dupuy's hastily-assembled team pulled off the unlikely win against the higher qualified car of Yuichi Oyama with the day's second quickest lap, a steady 4.730-second blast at 311.49 mph. The weekend could have been even better, but an ignition problem in the quarterfinals handed the second-round win to Tony Schumacher.

"We found some problems last night and made some changes to the Bilstein Engine Flush car," Dupuy said. "We went out in Round 1 and made a nice safe run. The car was beautiful when they got back to the pits. No damage at all, except a dropped cylinder, which occurred late in the run. We fixed that but didn't change much between rounds. The problem was the car wouldn't fire at the starting line in Round 2 so I had to bypass the retard box and wire straight to the ignition. We just couldn't get down this hot track with no retard. That's the bottom line on why we smoked the tires."

After a nearly identical start, Russell was ahead of second-round opponent Schumacher at the first set of timers. But the Bilstein Engine Flush car suddenly lost traction and spun its tires, allowing Schumacher by for a 4.758-second victory.

"I'm so proud of this crew and to be a part of this organization," Dupuy said. "The moral has gone way up today. I know we're gonna have a bad-ass race team very soon and we'll be winning some races out here. It's all right here in front of us."

The 33-year-old Russell was equally excited about his new teammates and the success they enjoyed today. "I'm absolutely busting with pride about this group," he said. "They turned a very bad situation into something very, very good. We might have only won one round today but it might be the biggest round win I've ever had. This was all about grit and determination and people showing each other what they're capable of."

The elimination rounds of the third annual SummitRacing.com Nationals will air today in primetime from 8-10 p.m. (Mountain) on ESPN2. A repeat showing of the elimination rounds will follows from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (Mountain), on Tuesday, April 9, also on ESPN2.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Joe Amato