Topeka: Amato Racing preview

Amato Racing ready to win as a group. TOPEKA, Kan. (May 21) -- Reigning NHRA Rookie of the Year driver Darrell Russell is getting antsy. The 33-year-old Texan knows his Bilstein Engine Flush System Top Fuel dragster is one of the quickest cars...

Amato Racing ready to win as a group.

TOPEKA, Kan. (May 21) -- Reigning NHRA Rookie of the Year driver Darrell Russell is getting antsy. The 33-year-old Texan knows his Bilstein Engine Flush System Top Fuel dragster is one of the quickest cars on the POWERade Drag Racing circuit but with eight races in the books this season he has yet to find the winner's circle. With a building sense of urgency, Russell and the rest of the Joe Amato Racing crew plan to change that statistic this weekend at the 14th annual O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals.

"The last five races have been a little frustrating because we always seem to have moments where we're world beaters," Russell said. "Everyone on the team gets excited because we know we're on to something big. Then just like that our Bilstein Engine Flush System car will throw us a curveball and we come back down to earth.

"If we were totally lost it would be one thing. But our numbers prove we have a car that is becoming very quick -- definitely quick enough to run with the top two or three teams every race. That's what gets us frustrated because we're so close to success we can taste it."

The consistency Russell craves could very well come at Heartland Park Topeka. The two-time national event winner can lean on the experience of team owner and mentor Amato, the sport's all-time leader in Top Fuel championships and national event victories. Amato, who retired from driving after the 2000 season, was a five-time finalist in Topeka, winning out right in 1990 and claiming runner-up honors in 1991, '92, '97, and '99.

"I hope the weather is good and we can get four good rounds of qualifying in and then go four rounds on Sunday and win this race," Russell said. "We want to win and we need the experience we'll get from making those laps. We were shorted one round in Englishtown and that hurt us because this group of guys has only been together for five races and we haven't had a chance to test. Every lap we make puts us a lot closer to our goal.

"When I stop and think about it, I get really excited about what this team has accomplished since Wayne Dupuy took over as crew chief. We've been in the top 10 since he got here, we went to the finals in Bristol, and the team has really started to grow together as a family. We're having fun now, which is important to me. We'll really enjoy our next win and we'll enjoy it together as a group."

Qualifying action of this race will air in primetime from 7-9 p.m. (CST), Saturday, with the eliminations on from 7:30-9:30 p.m. (CST), Sunday. A repeat of the eliminations will be broadcast from 3-5 a.m. (CST), Friday, May 31, on ESPN2.

-jar-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Joe Amato