Las Vegas II: Darrell Russell Saturday summary

Russell earns top-half starting slot. LAS VEGAS (Oct. 26) -- Sophomore driver Darrell Russell has remained perfect as a professional, successfully qualifying Joe Amato's Bilstein Engine Flush Top Fuel dragster in his 45th straight...

Russell earns top-half starting slot.

LAS VEGAS (Oct. 26) -- Sophomore driver Darrell Russell has remained perfect as a professional, successfully qualifying Joe Amato's Bilstein Engine Flush Top Fuel dragster in his 45th straight event. Russell's best pass of the weekend so far showed a 4.628-second clocking at 315.71 mph on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway scoreboards, placing him eighth in the largest Top Fuel field of the last four and a half years.

Russell's car has been one of the most consistent of the 26 dragsters on the property, making end-to-end passes during three of the four qualifying sessions. The team will now prepare for a first-round match-up with Australian racer Dave Grubnic, who qualified ninth with a 4.640-second pass at 318.02 mph. Russell and Grubnic have raced each other three times with Russell holding a 2-1 advantage.

"I'm really happy with the way this dragster is running," Russell said. "We're being realistic. We know the 2002 championship is out of reach so our crew chief Wayne Dupuy has started working on all kinds of combinations we think will get us off to a fast start next year. He's changed a lot of things on this car over the last few weeks but we continue to run great numbers. That says a lot about Wayne's abilities as a tuner.

"Make no mistake, we're not compromising a thing when it comes to racing the car. We still want to win and we want to do it convincingly. We just have a unique opportunity to try some things under optimal race-day conditions and were taking full advantage."

The entire Amato Racing team remains locked in an extremely tight battle for third place in the POWERade championship points standings. Russell is currently sixth but is just 61 points out of third, making every individual race on Sunday a pivotal affair.

"Every team enters a race with the goal of winning the event," said Russell, the defending Las Vegas race champion. "The way I look at it, if we stay focused on that goal then the points will sort themselves out. We've made no secret of the fact that we'd love to finish higher than we did last year when we were sixth and we have a great chance to accomplish that goal. We just need to take care of business tomorrow."

This race will be shown in primetime from 5-7 p.m. (ET), Sunday, on ESPN, the network's primary station. Prior to that, ESPN2 will carry highlights of the qualifying action with a Midnight-2 a.m. (ET) Sunday morning show. Repeat broadcasts will air from 2-4 p.m. (ET), Monday, and 1-3 a.m. (ET), Friday, Nov. 1, both on ESPN2.

-jar-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Joe Amato