Career-best day has Team Amato excited

PHOENIX (Jan. 21) -- It was a titanic day of testing for Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell at Firebird International Raceway as he piloted Joe Amato's Bilstein Engine Flush dragster through two career-best runs. Russell uncorked a 4.548 at 323.89...

PHOENIX (Jan. 21) -- It was a titanic day of testing for Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell at Firebird International Raceway as he piloted Joe Amato's Bilstein Engine Flush dragster through two career-best runs. Russell uncorked a 4.548 at 323.89 mph in the morning session and followed it up with a slightly quicker 4.541 at 316.45 mph in the afternoon. The first pass set a personal best top speed for the 33-year-old Texan, while the afternoon blast lowered his career-best elapsed time mark by three-thousandths.

Continuing a trend he set over the weekend during the National Time Trails, Russell capitalized on crew chief Jimmy Walsh's improved tune-up and used incredibly quick launching numbers to propel him down the track to a record time and speed. His first jaunt produced an astonishing 60-foot time of .824 seconds and incremental numbers of 2.146 seconds at 330 feet, 3.078 seconds and 272.28 mph at halftrack, 3.861 seconds at 1,000 feet, and 4.548 seconds and 323.89 mph at the quarter-mile.

Proving the earlier run was no fluke, Russell lowered the bar yet again in the afternoon session when he shocked the gathered crowd of fellow racers with a would-be record 60-foot time of .812 seconds, followed by an improved set of incremental numbers of 2.119 seconds at 330 feet, 3.049 seconds and 270.59 mph at halftrack, 3.839 seconds at 1,000 feet, and 4.541 at 316.45 mph at the finish line.

Officially, Russell's best numbers in NHRA competition show a 4.544-second elapsed time and a 322.96 mph top speed. Numbers posted during testing sessions are deemed unofficial since NHRA guidelines and regulations are not enforced.

"What a pair of runs," Russell said. "The most exciting thing is that we had a great run and then we turned right around and repeated it. That's the most encouraging thing of all. Everyone pulls one out of the hat on occasion. When you can repeat it, then you know you're on to something great.

"The Bilstein Engine Flush dragster is really leaving hard and Jimmy says it's a very safe tune-up down low, that we're not close to over-powering the track and smoking the tires. I'm not sure what the national record is for 60-foot times, I don't think they even keep those records, but that .812 has to be one of the best ever.

"Then, not only is the car leaving hard, but when the clutch locks up at halftrack, it's pushing me back in the seat even more. This is a stout race car and Jimmy and the crew should be proud of themselves for the progress they made over the off-season."

The team plans more testing tomorrow. Then attention will shift to the 42nd K&N Filters Winternationals, which kicks-off the POWERade Series Feb. 7-10 in Pomona, Calif.

-ta-

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