Pomona: Team Valvoline preview

Top Fuel: Russell Defending Winternationals Winner Darrell Russell is the defending Winternationals winner. Last year, replacing the retired Joe Amato in the Valvoline/Keystone Automotive dragster, he defeated Andrew Cowin, No. 1 qualifier Doug...

Top Fuel: Russell Defending Winternationals Winner

Darrell Russell is the defending Winternationals winner. Last year, replacing the retired Joe Amato in the Valvoline/Keystone Automotive dragster, he defeated Andrew Cowin, No. 1 qualifier Doug Kalitta, Bobby Baldwin and then Mike Dunn in the finals, to become just the third driver to win his NHRA professional debut. Russell finished the season with two wins, sixth in points, and was named NHRA Rookie of the Year.

Darrell Russell on last year's Winternationals victory: "When I won Pomona, everything was just a daze. I don't remember half the things that were going on. It was a shock. Even today, it's just an incredible feeling and accomplishment to start my pro career like that. That's when records and history books are kind of kool because that is something that will follow you for a long, long time."

Where is the Winternationals trophy?: "The trophy is sitting on the kitchen counter right now at the house (in Hockley, Tex.) It's something I see every morning and every night, and all our friends and family come by and see it, and it's going to stay there for a long time."

During pre-season testing at Firebird Raceway, outside Phoenix, earlier this month, Russell went 323 mph, with a 4.548-second pass.

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.

Joe Amato on the business of racing and POWERade as NHRA's new title sponsor: "I think NHRA is better situated now. Winston was a great sponsor and they helped us get to where we are, but with all the negative bias against cigarettes, you can't advertise and promote all the ways you'd like. POWERade, (a product of) the Coca-Cola Co., is a step in the right direction. It's probably going to take them a transition year to understand what they can do out here. I look for it to be a learning curve for them and for NHRA on how to get it to the next dimension.

"The question is the economy and the lack of funding for some of the teams. Is everybody going to be able to hang on until we get to the next dimension? With the economy being soft, it has taken a toll on the teams."

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 Has Spectacular Pomona Memory

Ron Krisher is remembered at Pomona for a spectacular, upside-down flip during the first round of the 2000 Winternationals. He was shaken, but not seriously injured, and returned with a new Eagle One Pontiac Firebird a few weeks later at Firebird Raceway and advanced to the semifinals for the first time in his career. Krisher finished that season with two wins and was fourth in points.

Krisher is starting his third season as a serious Pro Stock-class contender in the Eagle One Chevrolet Cavalier. He had one victory and was eighth in points in 2001. Forced to start the '01 campaign with the Firebird, his new Cavalier wasn't ready until the third race of the season, and Ron spent the balance of the schedule learning that car. He was one of only four drivers to qualify for all 24 races last year.

Krisher, who owns a race engine company, says motor development has shown results during pre-season testing at Bradenton, Fla. "We have a new motor and it's pretty fast," he admitted. "We gained a little on the car (chassis), too. We're a lot closer, but I'm not 100 percent convinced that it's where I want it to be."

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

Notes: Prudhomme Up for Eagle One-Glick Award

NHRA legend Don Prudhomme is one of five nominees for the third annual Eagle One-Shav Glick Award, presented for outstanding achievement in motorsports by a Californian. Eagle One car care products sponsors the award, named in honor of Glick, the long-time "Los Angeles Times" motorsports journalist. The other nominees are: Parnelli Jones, Rick Mears, Les Richter and Mickey Thompson. NHRA founder Wally Parks was the Eagle One-Shav Glick Award winner in 2001. The presentation will be April 28 at California Speedway.

Three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Matt Hines emerged as the favorite for this year's title in a pre-season media poll conducted and published by the "Reading Eagle-Times." Hines, who rides the Eagle One Suzuki, opens the bike season March 14-17 at the Mac Tools Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla.

NEXT EVENT: Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals, Firebird Raceway, Chandler, Ariz., Feb. 21-24.

-tv-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Matt Hines , Mike Dunn , Joe Amato , Doug Kalitta , Andrew Cowin , Ron Krisher , Parnelli Jones , Don Prudhomme