Atlanta: Team Amato final qualifying summary

Team Amato will have to work for Atlanta win. ATLANTA (May 5) -- A rain-plagued two days of qualifying for the 22nd annual Southern Nationals ended with Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell earning the 14th spot in the elimination field. Russell's...

Team Amato will have to work for Atlanta win.

ATLANTA (May 5) -- A rain-plagued two days of qualifying for the 22nd annual Southern Nationals ended with Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell earning the 14th spot in the elimination field. Russell's best pass in Joe Amato's Bilstein Engine Flush System dragster was an off-pace 5.552-second effort at 278.17 mph.

"As good as we've been running, especially last weekend in Bristol when we went to the finals, I think it's safe to say we're all a little surprised to be struggling here," Russell said. "The weather and the track and other circumstances like guys oiling down the track right in front of us all seemed to slow us down. But the reality is, that's racing. We need to find a way to overcome those problems because they happen to everyone.

"I've always found that you really figure out what people are made of when the chips are down. Well, this little hiccup in our upward performance curve resulted with our crew chief Wayne Dupuy and everyone on this Bilstein Engine Flush System race team working double-time late into the evening last night to fix the problems. I'm proud of the effort and I wouldn't be surprised at all to see us rebound big today."

This weekend's time trails were shortened from four to three sessions due to the unyielding rain. Aside from the freshly washed track surface, Bilstein Engine Flush System crew chief Dupuy had to deal with severe fluctuations in the ambient temperature and corrected altitude, which drastically affects the car's tune-up. Fortunately, today's forecast calls for clear skies and temperatures in the mid-80s.

Russell's labored qualifying effort sets up a first-round showdown with veteran Cory McClenathan, who powered to the No. 3 position on the qualifying ladder with a 4.569-second pass at 318.92 mph. The two men have never raced one another.

"That team has been strong all year and we'll need to be in top form to beat them," Russell said. "The good news is the conditions will be very different today and lane choice seems to be inconsequential because the track is so smooth and well-prepared. We're sure going to try our best to win one for Joe Amato, Bilstein Engine Flush, Keystone Automotive, American Racing Wheels, Valvoline, Matco Tools, Yellowpageplus.net and all our other sponsors who have stuck with us."

Today's elimination rounds of the 22nd annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals will be broadcast later this evening from 5:30-7:30 p.m. (ET) and again from 11:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. (ET), also on ESPN2.

-jar-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Joe Amato , Cory McClenathan