Valvoline Racing weekly news 2002-06-24

VALVOLINE RACING NEWS You Can Always Tell the Guys Who Use Valvoline. (r) NHRA: Amato, Russell, Cheer Bernstein's Farewell Tour Kenny Bernstein has signed countless autographs and posed for thousands of photos during his legendary NHRA drag ...

You Can Always Tell the Guys Who Use Valvoline. (r)

NHRA: Amato, Russell, Cheer Bernstein's Farewell Tour

Kenny Bernstein has signed countless autographs and posed for thousands of photos during his legendary NHRA drag racing career. But perhaps none are as symbolic of the sport's "changing of the guard" as those Darrell Russell collected as a child.

"Probably in 1984 or '85, my parents and I went to the Cajun Nationals," recalls Russell. "My Dad has this picture of me -- I was like 15 years old -- getting an autograph from Kenny Bernstein. Then, last year, he was signing off on my Top Fuel license. It's interesting how life makes a full circle."

When legendary Joe Amato, NHRA's record-holder with five Top Fuel championships and 52 wins, retired after the 2000 season, he selected Russell to take the seat in his Valvoline-backed Bilstein English Flush dragster. Russell responded by earning Rookie of the Year honors and two race victories and got his third win on Memorial Day weekend in Topeka. Amato, meanwhile, is Bernstein's long-time close friend -- and golfing buddy. Defending Top Fuel title-holder Bernstein is in the midst of his "Forever Red" tour, his last season as an active driver. Amato understands the emotions involved, as he had planned such a farewell campaign for 2001, but eye problems forced him to stop driving at the end of 2000.

Russell and Amato commented on Bernstein going into this weekend's (June 28-30) Sears Craftsman Nationals at Gateway International Raceway, just outside St. Louis.

"I don't know Kenny nearly as well as Joe does," said Russell, who had a career-best No. 2 qualifying effort in the most recent event near Columbus, Ohio. "Watching as a kid, there were three guys that you always looked up to: Joe Amato, Kenny Bernstein and Don Prudhomme. Those were the guys who pioneered a lot of things in this sport. I used to idolize Kenny as a kid. He was my favorite driver. I've always looked up to him because he's done so much for the sport, his professionalism at the track, that's always impressed me. His competitiveness on the racetrack speaks for itself. I don't think you'll find a more intense competitor out there. He's the guy you want to beat, no doubt about that."

Said Amato: "We've talked a lot about it (retirement). He knows it's (last season) going to be intense. Budweiser will make a big deal out of it and it will be nice. One nice thing about it is he has a son (Brandon) he can stick in the car. I think he's comfortable and accomplished what he's wanted to do. He's beat up pretty good from being in the car and racing all these years, his neck and his back. I think he'll be OK because he's a pretty tough character. He's ready. His mind is ready to get out of the car, but it will probably be pretty emotional at the end, but once he gets there, he'll be happy."

Meanwhile, Las Vegas race winner Ron Krisher, Eagle One Chevrolet Cavalier, is fifth in the NHRA POWERade Pro Stock points. He has now qualified for an impressive 58 consecutive events in the ultra-competitive class, where as many as 38 cars try for just 16 spots in qualifying. Krisher won at Gateway Raceway in 2000. Three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Matt HInes, the Gateway winner in 1998 and 2000 on the Eagle One Suzuki, is fourth in points. He was the No. 1 qualifier at the most recent race near Columbus, Ohio.

SCCA: Valvoline Named Official Oil

Valvoline and the Sports Car Club of America have announced a three-year agreement naming Valvoline the Official Oil of the SCCA. Valvoline will have a strong visual presence at the Tire Rack Solo II Nationals (Topeka, Kansas), the SCCA National Convention (Kansas City, Mo.) and on SCCA Pro Rally Series cars. The agreement also provides for reciprocating web links and a cooperative effort to promote the Valvoline Cup, a new grassroots support program which will honor national champions in six categories and 33 classes. Valvoline continues this year as the event sponsor of the Valvoline Runoffs, the crown-jewel event for SCCA's Club Racing program. The 39th Valvoline Runoffs, Sept. 16-22 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, features almost 700 drivers in 24 classes.

James V. Rocco, Valvoline senior vice president, said: "The timing is right for this association between Valvoline and the SCCA, both from a racing and a business perspective. The SCCA's membership is now over 66,000 for the first time ever. Valvoline has gotten to know and respect SCCA competitiors because of our long-time support of the Valvoline Runoffs. SCCA members are people we want to race with, and do business with, and Valvoline's new status as the Official Oil of the SCCA will enhance our opportunity to do both."

"This new relationship with Valvoline falls right in with our strategic plan to become partners with absolute industry leaders," said Steve Johnson, SCCA Inc. President and CEO. "The SCCA is the leader in motorsports, and Valvoline is the industry leader in oils and lubricants. We're thrilled to begin the next chapter in SCCA's 58-year history with Valvoline."

NASCAR: MaxLife Corvette at Daytona

The July 6 Pepsi 400 at Daytona will conclude the cross-country tour of the 1956-model MaxLife Corvette, which will be on-track for the pre-race parade. The vintage Vette is touring America on the MaxLife 75K Relay for Kids, helping to raise $75,000 in 75 days for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

Valvoline is the official motor oil of Daytona International Speedway.

Johnny Benson, who finished 10th in last February's Daytona 500 in the No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac, led last year's Pepsi 400 until passed by eventual winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. with just five laps remaining.

BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS OF AMERICA UPDATE: Johnny Benson's performance in the No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac, combined with contributions from Valvoline and NASCAR fans, has brought the current total raised for Big Brothers Big Sisters since 1999 to $772,957. Valvoline is donating $5,000 for every Winston Cup race Benson wins, $2,500 for each pole, $1,000 for a top-10 finish, $500 for a top-20 result and $20 per lap Benson leads in this "Caring Hands" program. Valvoline has doubled its commitment to Big Brothers Big Sisters this season by donating the above amount not only to the national BBBSA mentoring program, but also a matching contribution to a local BBBSA chapter selected prior to each Winston Cup event. That chapter for the July 6 Pepsi 400 at Daytona is Richland County, Ohio.

Informed Sources: Kimmel on the Cup

Frank Kimmel, defending ARCA RE/MAX Series titlist and occasional Winston Cup competitor, is currently fifth in the Valvoline Cup standings. The Valvoline Cup, presented by Campbell Hausfeld, allows asphalt stock car drivers from across the country -- both at local tracks and in touring series -- to go head-to-head for the season championship. Kimmel recently appeared on ESPN2's "RPM2Night" to talk about the unique Valvoline Cup program, which will honor competitors in six categories and 33 classes.

Also: Chemistry between driver and crew chief is more important in Winston Cup than any other series, writes columnist I.N. Sider in the new "Behind [Closed] Garage Doors" column now posted on the web site. The commentary/analysis column appears twice a month. Fans can sign-up at for the new free weekly "Track Talk" newsletter.


Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Kenny Bernstein , Joe Amato , Ron Krisher , Johnny Benson , Frank Kimmel , Don Prudhomme , Steve Johnson