Phoenix: Team Valvoline preview

CHECKER SCHUCK'S KRAGEN NATIONALS Firebird Raceway, Chandler, Ariz. Feb. 21-24 Race 2 of the 23-event NHRA POWERade Series Top Fuel: Russell a Firebird Finalist in 2001 Darrell Russell advanced to the final round in last year's CSK Nationals,...

CHECKER SCHUCK'S KRAGEN NATIONALS
Firebird Raceway, Chandler, Ariz.
Feb. 21-24
Race 2 of the 23-event NHRA POWERade Series

Top Fuel: Russell a Firebird Finalist in 2001

Darrell Russell advanced to the final round in last year's CSK Nationals, losing to Doug Kalitta. He finished the season with two wins, sixth in points, and was named NHRA Rookie of the Year. Russell started the '02 season at Pomona Feb. 10 with a first-round loss to Larry Dixon.

During pre-season testing at Firebird last month, Russell went 323 mph, with a 4.548-second pass

Darrell Russell on the benefits of racing at Firebird after recently testing at the track: "There's definitley a benefit to that. Then again, the conditions we have for testing might not be the same as when we come back for the race. Anytime you can get more laps on a track where you're going to be racing on in the very near future, it's going to benefit you 10 fold. We'll have the car systems set up for this weather and probably just have to tickle them a little."

Continuing one of the most successful partnerships in modern motor racing, Valvoline returns in 2002 for the 19th season as a sponsor of Joe Amato's Top Fuel team. From 1984 through his retirement after the 2000 campaign, Valvoline's technical, product and financial support helped Amato to five Top Fuel championships and 52 victories, both NHRA records. Darrell Russell added to the record in 2001, with two wins, and NHRA Rookie of the Year honors in Amato's dragster. Bilstein Engine Flush is Amato Racing's new primary sponsor.

SEASON-TO-DATE: Pomona (2/10) -- Qualified 15th. Lost in first round to Larry Dixon (eventual race winner).

DARRELL RUSSELL
Age: 33
Residence: Hockley, Tex.
2001 Season: NHRA Rookie of the Year
2 wins (Pomona, Feb.; Las Vegas, Oct.)
Sixth in Top Fuel points

JOE AMATO
Age: 57
Residence: Moosic, Pa.
Career: NHRA Top Fuel record-holder with five championships and 52 wins.
Retired following 2000 season.

Pro Stock: Krisher a Past Firebird Semifinalist

Ron Krisher earned his sixth career No. 1 qualifying position in the season-opener at Pomona, but lost traction and didn't advance past the first round. His breakthrough as a serious Pro Stock class contender came at Firebird in 2000, when he advanced to the semifinals for the first time in his career. It came under difficult circumstances, in a brand-new Eagle One Pontiac Firebird he had bought after flipping and destroying his original car two weeks before at Pomona. Krisher finished that season with two wins and was fourth in points, and gained another victory en route to eighth in last year's standings. He was one of only four drivers to qualify for all 24 races last year.

Ron Krisher on the benefits of NHRA's new POWERade series sponsorship and increased ESPN TV time (with demise of the Pro Stock Truck division) to the Pro Stock class: "The media still seems focused on the (Top) Fuelers and the Funny Cars (but) this (POWERade) is a big deal for the NHRA. Everybody is looking for more support. We'll have a better opportunity this year for promotion of Pro Stock. Obviously, what is going to be very difficult for a lot of people is the fact that budgets are tight, extremely tight. Bringing in sponsorships for teams this year is a big challenge. I'm fortunate to continue to have the support from Eagle One and Valvoline."

SEASON-TO-DATE: Pomona (2/10) -- Qualified first. Lost in first round to George Marnell (eventual race winner).

RON KRISHER
Age: 53
Residence: Warren, Ohio
2001 Season: 1 win (Topeka)
Eighth in Pro Stock points
Career Wins: 3

NEXT EVENT: Mac Tools Gatornations, Gainesville Raceway, Gainesville, Fla., March 14-17.

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Doug Kalitta , Ron Krisher , George Marnell