Brainerd: Darrell Russell preview

Team Amato and Russell ready to start new streak. BRAINERD, Minn. (August 13) -- Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell and the rest of Joe Amato's Bilstein Engine Flush System racing team reveled in their good fortune over the course of the NHRA's ...

Team Amato and Russell ready to start new streak.

BRAINERD, Minn. (August 13) -- Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell and the rest of Joe Amato's Bilstein Engine Flush System racing team reveled in their good fortune over the course of the NHRA's recently completed Western Swing. During consecutive weekends in Denver, Seattle, and Sonoma, Calif., Russell and Co. became the hottest team in drag racing, winning two events and streaking to a 10-1 mark.

Now, as the POWERade Drag Racing Series moves north for the 21st annual Rugged Liner NHRA Nationals in Minnesota, the group -- led by crew chief Wayne Dupuy -- hope to start another streak of victories that will keep them in contention for a top finish.

"There is no reason to think this team will let off one bit," Russell said. "We had one of the best cars at the drag strip on the Western Swing and if not for a few thousandths of a second in Sonoma, we might have done even better than we did there. I think it's impossible to think of this Bilstein Engine Flush team as anything but a contender."

The 33-year-old Russell raced to the finals of the Brainerd event last year, taking runner-up honors against Larry Dixon in the final. Over the years, Amato Racing has become the most prolific Top Fuel organization at Brainerd International Raceway with team owner Amato winning the race outright on six occasions (1983, '84, '88, '89, '90, and '92) and finishing in second place once, in 1992.

"Last year, almost every track was new to me so I leaned on Joe's experience a lot," Russell said. "He obviously helped when we were in Brainerd because we made it to the finals. This year, I'm asking him different questions about the tracks we go to and I can tell you it doesn't hurt to have a five-time world champion on your side.

"Brainerd can be tricky because it's an older track with a short launch pad but we saw a track just like this a few weeks ago in Seattle and we won the race. Wayne and the guys work hard at matching the car to the track and the conditions so we can get from one end to the other every pass. If we do that again this weekend I expect we'll have a really nice chance at going rounds on Sunday and putting ourselves in a position to win."

The ESPN2 television network will provide four hours of primetime coverage of 21st annual Rugged Liner Nationals. Highlights of the qualifying rounds will air from 7-9 p.m. (CST) Saturday with elimination-round coverage running from 8-10 p.m. (CST) Sunday. A rebroadcast of the entire race will occur from 2-4 a.m. (CST), Friday, August 30.

-jar-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Joe Amato