Russell corrals career-best starting slot. TOPEKA, Kan. (May 25) -- Resurgent Rookie of the Year driver Darrell Russell will start his quest for the title of the 14th annual O'Reilly Summer Nationals out of a career-high starting position. The...
Russell corrals career-best starting slot.
TOPEKA, Kan. (May 25) -- Resurgent Rookie of the Year driver Darrell Russell will start his quest for the title of the 14th annual O'Reilly Summer Nationals out of a career-high starting position. The popular 33-year-old from Hockley, Texas, guided Joe Amato's Bilstein Engine Flush System Top Fuel dragster through a 4.683-second pass at 313.58 mph in today's second session to earn the No. 3 slot on in the elimination field.
"I'm very happy," Russell said. "Not just for me but for the entire Amato Racing camp. Anytime you accomplish something better than you ever had before it's a big step forward. I know we've qualified No. 4 a bunch of times and it's kind of nice to push that mark up a little bit higher. We can't be far away from earning our first pole. That's the next step."
Russell and the rest of the Top Fuel field had just two chances to qualify this weekend as a day-long rain shower washed out both of Friday's scheduled rounds. Today, the clouds parted and temperatures climbed into the mid-70s, setting up ideal race conditions.
"In my opinion we're just getting started," Russell said. "We're coming into the race tracks and the conditions where our crew chief Wayne Dupuy really shines. It's supposed to warm up even more tomorrow so I'm thinking this weekend is playing right into our hands.
"My hats off to Wayne and the crew. It's tough when you lose rounds to rain and to come out here today under a lot of pressure and pull off a No. 3 qualifying effort says all I need to know about this group. I'm impressed but not surprised."
The team's effort sets up a first round showdown for Russell against Australian Andrew Cowin, who struggled to earn the No. 14 position in the field with a slightly off-pace 4.883 at 266.95 mph. The two men have raced six time in the past with Russell claiming victory every time. Due to their superior elapsed time, Russell and Dupuy will have the advantage of picking which lane the Bilstein Engine Flush System dragster will have to navigate.
Qualifying highlights from this race will air from 4:30-6:30 p.m. (CST), today, on ESPN2. The eliminations will be broadcast from 2-5 p.m. (CST), Sunday, on ESPN, with a repeat broadcast later Sunday evening from 7:30-9:30 p.m. (CST) on ESPN2, and again from 3-5 a.m. (CST), Friday, May 31, on ESPN2.