Columbus: Team Amato previe

Team Amato a major contender for C-Bus title. COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 10) -- The final round of last year's Pontiac Excitement NHRA Nationals at National Trail Raceway featured two of Top Fuel's brightest up-and-coming stars -- Darrell Russell and...

Team Amato a major contender for C-Bus title.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 10) -- The final round of last year's Pontiac Excitement NHRA Nationals at National Trail Raceway featured two of Top Fuel's brightest up-and-coming stars -- Darrell Russell and Larry Dixon -- doing their best to bag wins for their respective team owners -- drag racing legends Joe Amato and Don "the Snake" Prudhomme.

There is every reason to think the same two cars will be lining up once again for this year's title as both men arrive in mid-Ohio with massive amounts of momentum. Certainly, after winning 12 of the 24 national events contested since the last stop at National Trail Raceway, POWERade points leader Dixon has an edge. But followers of the sport know the only man to outright beat Dixon in 2002 is Russell, who powered his Wayne Dupuy-tuned hot rod to victory over Dixon just two races ago in Topeka, Kan.

"Dixon has the car to beat this year," Russell said. "When we line up our Bilstein Engine Flush System dragster opposite that team we know we have to be perfect to turn on the win light. It's exciting we were able to do that in Topeka, especially since it was in the finals, but they answered right back at the next race and sent us home in the second round. We know it's a war every time we race them and we love the challenge."

Currently in his sophomore season as a pro, Russell, the tour's reigning Rookie of the Year, is quite familiar with National Trail Raceway dating back to his numerous trips there with his family's Top Alcohol dragster. Aside from his runner-up finish to Dixon last season, Russell claimed victory there in 1996. When matched with crew chief Dupuy's 1999 Funny Car win and team owner Amato's seven trips to the finals of this event, Columbus has been very lucky for the entire Bilstein Engine Flush System race team.

"Even though most drivers don't like this race track, I love this old place," Russell said. "When I raced Top Alcohol dragsters this was the location of the All-Star race so to be invited to National Trail was a real honor. That race meant so much to us back then. It meant you were running well and the payouts were huge. Just making it to the race was one of the goals you set for yourself every year.

"Now we come in here every bit as excited because we have a race car we've proven can run with the top cars, including Dixon's. If you look at the last few races we've been every bit as quick as anyone out there. We even had the quickest losing elapsed time of the weekend in Chicago. We feel like we're right on the brink of more great things."

The ESPN2 television network is devoting eight hours of coverage to this event. Qualifying highlights will air from 8-10 p.m. (ET), Saturday, with a repeat showing from 4:30-6 a.m. (ET), Sunday morning. The elimination rounds will be broadcast from 8:30-11 p.m. (ET), Sunday, with another showing from 2:30-4:30 p.m. (ET), on June 19.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Joe Amato