Topeka: Darrell Russell finals summary

Victory invigorates Russell and Team Amato. CHICAGO (May 27) -- Fresh off a surprising but dominating final-round victory over Top Fuel points leader Larry Dixon in Topeka, Kan., reigning NHRA Rookie of the Year Darrell Russell arrives at Route...

Victory invigorates Russell and Team Amato.

CHICAGO (May 27) -- Fresh off a surprising but dominating final-round victory over Top Fuel points leader Larry Dixon in Topeka, Kan., reigning NHRA Rookie of the Year Darrell Russell arrives at Route 66 Raceway for this weekend's fifth annual Chicagoland Dodge Dealers NHRA Nationals as an early favorite to claim the race's title.

Piloting drag racing legend Joe Amato's Bilstein Engine Flush System dragster to its first victory of the year and the third of his brief career, Russell proved once again that he has the ability and the horsepower to compete for the POWERade championship. His heroics in Topeka lifted him three spots in the standings to a season-high sixth-place ranking, which has the team dreaming of moving into the elite top-five in Chicago.

"Every since Joe hired Wayne Dupuy to be our crew chief and he took over this team in Las Vegas, our performance has been increasing at a real strong clip," said Russell, a 33-year-old from Hockley, Texas. "The team has come together and worked through some very difficult transitions but we never lost sight of our main goal -- to bring honor and victory to Joe Amato Racing.

"Joe built a dynasty over the course of his career. Five championships and 52 national event wins are marks that won't be broken for a long time. I'm still humbled that he picked me to drive his car a year and a half ago and I still try to do everything in my power every lap to convince him that he made the right choice."

Russell certainly proved his mettle in Topeka. After riding Dupuy's steady tune-up to a career-high third-place starting slot, he marched through the first two rounds of eliminations with fairly easy victories over Andrew Cowin and Melanie Troxel.

It was in the third round where Russell really earned his pay. Racing out of the less-than-desirable left-hand lane, Russell posted a stellar .433 to .490-second holeshot on semifinal foe Cory McClenathan to win with a 4.761 at 301.54 mph to McClenathan's quicker 4.714 at 313.66 mph. Then, to cap off the perfect day, he simply outran runaway early-season points leader Dixon, winning with a 4.63 to Dixon's 4.67.

"I had an 0-7 mark against Dixon and he had lane-choice," Russell said. "But Wayne-o came up with the perfect tune-up and we just flat-out beat them. That hasn't happened to them all year. I think we got some people's attention, at least for a day. It's very satisfying and it has this entire Bilstein Engine Flush System team very pumped up."

Qualifying highlights of this race will air in primetime from 7:30-9:30 p.m. (CST), Saturday, on ESPN2. Elimination round coverage runs from 6:30-10 p.m. (CST), Sunday, also on ESPN2, with a repeat showing from 1-3:30 p.m. (CST), Tuesday, June 4, on ESPN2.

-jar-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Joe Amato , Andrew Cowin , Cory McClenathan , Melanie Troxel