Russell rings up runner-up finish. BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 28) -- Darrell Russell, the reigning NHRA Rookie of the Year, shook off his early-season sophomore slump today at Bristol Dragway with a runner-up finish to points leader Larry Dixon in ...
Russell rings up runner-up finish.
BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 28) -- Darrell Russell, the reigning NHRA Rookie of the Year, shook off his early-season sophomore slump today at Bristol Dragway with a runner-up finish to points leader Larry Dixon in the second annual Thunder Valley Nationals.
The 33-year-old driver from Hockley, Texas, had just one elimination-round victory coming into today's event but came to life today in Joe Amato's Bilstein Engine Flush System dragster with three solid rounds of racing before bowing to Dixon's powerful machine in the finals. Russell gave Dixon all he had, shooting out to an early .463-second to .479-second headstart, but his car lost traction at mid-track and he could only watch as Dixon streaked by for the win in 4.644 seconds at 317.87 mph to Russell's retiring 4.977 at 268.01 mph.
"What a huge shoot in the arm this weekend has been for the entire team," Russell said. "We knew we were getting close to something special with this car but it never feels as good as it does when you can show it on the race track. This is the culmination of a lot of effort from Joe Amato, Marty Yacoobian of Bilstein Engine Flush, our crew chief Wayne Dupuy, who joined us after the season had already started, and all the crew guys who have worked their tails off for four straight weeks with no days off.
"This is the first time this year that I've truly been happy driving this car. We've overcome a lot of adversity in a short amount of time and the way we matched up against everyone else today in each round proves what we're capable of accomplishing. It'll be very hard to remove this smile from my face, I can promise you that. We're all thrilled."
Russell rode Dupuy's stellar tune-up to victories over Andrew Cowin, Doug Kalitta, and Dave Grubnic in the first three sessions. The Bilstein Engine Flush System rail was the second quickest car in Round 1 when Russell's 4.695 at 313.07 mph beat Cowin's 4.982 at 243.63 mph. In the second stanza, Russell's 4.701 at 312.64 mph against Kalitta's 4.744 at 303.30 mph was the quickest of all eight quarterfinalists, and his 4.705 at 312.64 mph versus Grubnic's 7.413 at 99.91 mph was second on the list in the semifinals.
Today's effort moved Russell from ninth to seventh place in the POWERade championship points standings, which marks his highest ranking of the season. Russell is now just 55 points out of the elite top five and 331 behind season-long frontrunner Dixon. Drivers earn 20 points per elimination-round win as well as bonus points during qualifying.
"You can't go out and catch the top guys in one race," said Dupuy, who was named crew chief three races ago when Russell was 13th in the points. "You just try to go rounds every race and make up ground a little at a time. We're pretty happy with our progress and the guys on this crew should be credited for all their hard work over the last month."
It's not too late to catch some the rebroadcast of today's elimination rounds on ESPN2. The sister network of ESPN will follow the 4-6 p.m. (ET) primetime coverage of today's action on ESPN with a second show from 6-8 p.m. (ET) this evening on ESPN2.