Red-light foul proves Russell is human. COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 16) -- For the first time in his 35 professional races, Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell beat himself with a red-light disqualification during a second-round match-up with Tony ...
Red-light foul proves Russell is human.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 16) -- For the first time in his 35 professional races, Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell beat himself with a red-light disqualification during a second-round match-up with Tony Schumacher. The second-year driver, widely regarded as a reaction-time specialist, left the starting line 42-thousandths of a second before the Christmas Tree was activated, gift-wrapping the victory for his good friend Schumacher.
"I know this happens to every driver out here at one point or another but it doesn't help me feel any better right now," a disconsolate Russell said. "We had the better car today and I just feel like I've let the whole team down. I told all the guys how sorry I was.
"This is just so unlike me. I have a routine I do every time up there and I went through it that time just like I always do. The entire staging process felt normal but they said it looked like I went in [to the staging beams] a little deeper than normal. I guess it got me."
After taking out Jim Head in the opening round, Russell entered the quarterfinals with lane-choice over Schumacher. During the race, he beat Schumacher to every timing interval including at the finish line where he posted a 4.751-second lap ahead of Schumacher's tire-smoking 5.275-second pass. But it was all for naught as the red-light burned.
"Let me tell you something right now," Bilstein Engine Flush System crew chief Wayne Dupuy said immediately after the loss. "We win as a team and we lose as a team. I refuse to let Darrell beat himself up over this. He's a great driver who has pulled out plenty of wins for this Joe Amato and this team with his good lights in the past and I know he'll save my butt again in the future. So you know what we'll do? We'll pack up this Bilstein Engine Flush System/Keystone/Valvoline/Matco Tools car knowing it's a bad hombre with a bad-ass driver and we'll head to St. Louis ready to turn on some more win lights."
Crewman Robb Hauser, a veteran of the NHRA circuit, echoed Dupuy's thoughts on behalf of the entire Bilstein Engine Flush System crew. "If [Russell] didn't do that every once in awhile then I'd feel very uncomfortable relying on him to pull off a .430 light when we need it the most," Hauser said. "I've seen every driver out here turn on that red-light. It happens, it's a part of racing, and there's nothing you can do but forget about it and move on. We'll be right there at the front of the pack in two weeks time. Count on that."
The elimination rounds of the 38th annual Pontiac Excitement NHRA Nationals will be broadcast from 8:30-11 p.m. (ET), today, on ESPN2, with another showing from 2:30-4:30 p.m. (ET), on June 19, also on ESPN2.