Baytown: Darrell Russell eliminations day report

Russell out early but still moves up a spot. HOUSTON (April 14) -- Progress continues to come slowly for Joe Amato's Top Fuel race team and Rookie of the Year driver Darrell Russell. The Hockley, Texas-based pro couldn't capitalize on his best...

Russell out early but still moves up a spot.

HOUSTON (April 14) -- Progress continues to come slowly for Joe Amato's Top Fuel race team and Rookie of the Year driver Darrell Russell. The Hockley, Texas-based pro couldn't capitalize on his best qualifying effort of the year during today's elimination rounds of the O'Reilly Spring Nationals, losing in the first round to John Smith. Even so, Russell's seventh-place start earned him enough points to move his Bilstein Engine Flush System team up one slot to ninth place in the POWERade championship points race.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed but at the same time I look at this new group and realize we've come a long way in a short amount of time," Russell said. "The facts are this particular crew has been working together for all of nine days and there are two guys who were helping out in Las Vegas that aren't even with us this weekend. Given a little bit of time, I'm confident we'll be running strong every round. We're already showing glimpses of greatness, we just need to find the consistency it takes to win races. We'll be there soon."

New crew chief Wayne Dupuy had Russell's car prepared for a stellar pass this morning and the early numbers the dragster posted show it would have been one of the quickest of the opening session. But the car's blower assembly was blown off the top of the motor just before halftrack, rendering the machine powerless.

During the pass, Russell quickly made up a cosmic reaction time by Smith (.435 to .478 seconds) and had already pulled even with his opponent by the 60-foot timer, .848 seconds to .880 seconds. By the 330-foot mark, Russell was clearly ahead, posting an incremental time of 2.188 seconds to Smith's 2.245-second elapsed time. Russell's dragster even led at halftrack -- 3.192 seconds to 3.234 seconds -- despite having already lost power. It was only then that Smith was able to pass by for the win, posting a 4.898-second lap at 272.56 mph to Russell's coasting 5.265-second effort at 202.12 mph.

"We were chugging right along and then 'kaboom,'" Russell said as he emerged from the cockpit of his car. "I hate to say it but this is a typical Houston race for us. In 15 years of racing at this track, my hometown track, I think I've only ever won one or two elimination rounds. I don't know why that is but I don't like it one bit. I'm doing everything I can as a driver to elimination one more variable. The car's in transition from the old team to this new group and little gremlins keep popping up. But we're stomping them out as fast as we can."

Today's elimination rounds of the 15th annual O'Reilly Spring Nationals will air from 8-10 p.m. (ET), on ESPN2, with a rebroadcast from 2:30-4:30 p.m. (ET) Tuesday.

-jar-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Joe Amato