BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 27) -- The upward trend of Joe Amato's Bilstein Engine Flush System Top Fuel team and driver Darrell Russell continues this weekend at the second annual Thunder Valley Nationals. For the second consecutive race Russell posted...
BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 27) -- The upward trend of Joe Amato's Bilstein Engine Flush System Top Fuel team and driver Darrell Russell continues this weekend at the second annual Thunder Valley Nationals. For the second consecutive race Russell posted a season-best qualifying effort and will once again start Sunday's action out of the top half of the elimination field, giving the 33-year-old Texan lane-choice advantage in Round 1.
Russell's best pass of the four time trails showed a 4.685-second lap at 308.57 mph, placing him sixth on the elimination ladder. He'll open tomorrow's sudden-death racing against Andrew Cowin, who qualified 11th with a 4.795-second pass at 312.35 mph. Cowin and Russell have raced five times previously with Russell winning all five of their head-to-head battles, his best record against any competitor.
"We continue to make progress every race and the crew has really put together a great race car for me once again," said Russell, the reigning NHRA Rookie of the Year. "It's encouraging to nail down our second top-half qualifying berth. It's always nice to go into Sunday knowing you can pick your lane, especially here because we're expecting some rain overnight so it might really make a difference in the morning.
"The mood and energy of the entire Bilstein Engine Flush System team really has me pumped up and excited. There is no question in my mind we'll be going rounds at every race from this point forward. Our new crew chief, Wayne Dupuy, continues to find things in the tune-up and on the car itself that need changing and every time he finds something we get quicker and faster. It's really an exciting time for all of us."
In the three races since Dupuy has taken over Amato's dragster the team has moved from 13th to ninth in the POWERade championship points standings. A win tomorrow could move them as high as fifth.
"We still have a long way to go," Dupuy said. "But we're taking things in stride and trying to improve one lap at a time. We have a great team assembled now and the ownership and sponsorship of this team give us all the tools we need to win. With five races in the next six weekends, we'll find out a lot about ourselves very quickly."
The ESPN television network has added some primetime coverage of the second annual Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals. Qualifying highlights will air this evening from 8-10 p.m. (ET) on ESPN2. The eliminations will be broadcast from 4-6 p.m. (ET) Sunday on ESPN with a rebroadcast from 6-8 p.m. (ET) on ESPN2.