Bristol: Darrell Russell preview

Russell tabs Bristol as 'crucial turning point' BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 19) -- Bolstered by the addition of two new full-time crewmen and two more weeks of intense preparation by recently-hired crew chief Wayne Dupuy, Top Fuel driver Darrell ...

Russell tabs Bristol as 'crucial turning point'

BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 19) -- Bolstered by the addition of two new full-time crewmen and two more weeks of intense preparation by recently-hired crew chief Wayne Dupuy, Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell believes next weekend's second annual Thunder Valley NHRA Nationals at Bristol Dragway will represent a crucial turning point for Joe Amato's Bilstein Engine Flush System race team.

Since Dupuy joined the team two races ago, the 33-year-old Russell has jumped up four spots in the POWERade championship points standings to the No. 9 position; progress made in spite of some seriously abbreviated prep time leading in to back-to-back national events. Now, with two more weeks of hard work turned in by the mostly-new crew, the team has begun to settle in to a championship-caliber work routine.

"It's a fresh start for all of us," said Russell, who raced to two wins in seven final-round appearances last year. "And now that we've all had a couple of races to get into a basic rhythm I feel confident in what we can accomplish in Bristol. It takes time to set up a sophisticated race car like this to one person's specific tune-up and, quite frankly, I find it remarkable that Wayne and the guys have accomplished what they have already. But now they've had a few extra days to work on this thing it'll be even more of a rocketship.

"Joe Amato is a proven winner, a five-time NHRA champion and the winningest Top Fuel driver of all-time, and he's said from the beginning he will stop at nothing to field a car that can win the championship every season. He's already made some gutsy calls this year and now it's up to all of us on this team to live up to his expectations. I know we have the ingredients in place right now to challenge for the 2002 POWERade title."

Russell, a native of Hockley, Texas, could climb as high as fifth place in the points standings with a strong showing in Bristol. "There's still 18 races left this season and a lot can happen," Russell said. "We need to take a methodical approach to going rounds at every race and working our way into contention. Wayne has shown us little peeks of what he's capable of. Now that he's had some time and has a few more full-time crewmen to help out, he'll be reaching even higher. Bristol could be our launching pad."

Continuing a season-long trend, ESPN2 will provide extensive primetime coverage of the second annual Thunder Valley Nationals. Highlights of all four qualifying sessions will air from 8-10 p.m. (ET) Saturday, while coverage of the elimination rounds will be broadcast from 5:30-7:30 p.m. (ET) Sunday. A repeat showing of the elimination rounds will occur later Sunday evening from 11:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. (ET).

-jar-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Joe Amato