Denver: Darrell Russell preview

Amato's past mastery of Denver track a plus for Russell. DENVER (July 15) -- In the 23-year history of Bandimere Speedway, no single drag racer has excelled on this famous quarter-mile quite like Joe Amato. During his illustrious driving career...

Amato's past mastery of Denver track a plus for Russell.

DENVER (July 15) -- In the 23-year history of Bandimere Speedway, no single drag racer has excelled on this famous quarter-mile quite like Joe Amato. During his illustrious driving career Amato raced to eight final rounds and six national event victories in Denver, including four wins in a row, making himself the undisputed king of Thunder Mountain.

Now, as the POWERade Drag Racing Series returns for this weekend's Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals, the retired Amato will lend his unparalleled knowledge of high-altitude racing to sophomore driver Darrell Russell and new crew chief Wayne Dupuy, as they try to once again guide Amato's Bilstein Engine Flush System dragster to the Victory Circle.

"Ever since Joe hired me to replace him in the seat of his race car I've felt so fortunate to have him coaching me along," the 33-year-old Russell said. "Most teams get thrown for a loop when they race in Denver because the tune-ups they normally use don't work all that well at altitude. For us, all we need to do is turn to Joe and ask him how he did it all those years. It sure is nice to have the best Top Fuel driver of all-time on your team."

Aside from the obvious benefits of tapping into five-time champion and 52-time national event winner Amato's unlimited pool of experience, Russell and Dupuy can lean on their own successes in the first half of the season. In nine races since Dupuy joined the squad, Russell has vaulted from 13th to fifth place in the points with a win in Topeka, a runner-up finish in Bristol, an overall race day mark of 12-8, and six top-half qualifying berths.

"We've been improving every race to the point where we feel like we're just as good as any of the other top teams," Russell said. "Hopefully, the edge we can gain from Joe and his winning record in Denver will be the difference this year. I know it's helped a bunch to have a few weeks off between races so everyone could catch up on their work and enjoy some time with their families. It's got us all pumped up and ready to go.

"We're also very excited to be debuting a brand-new paint scheme at this race. The Bilstein Engine Flush System dragster will sport a yellow, orange, and red custom flame-job that I know people will love. It's sure to draw a lot of attention to our team and our great group of sponsors - Bilstein Engine Flush, American Racing Wheels, Valvoline, Keystone Automotive, and Matco Tools. We'd love to put it in the Winner's Circle."

ESPN will carry the qualifying rounds of the 23rd annual Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals from 7-9 p.m. (ET), Saturday. Final round coverage runs in primetime from 6-9 p.m. (ET), Sunday, on ESPN2, with a rebroadcast from 2-4 p.m. (ET), Tuesday, July 23, on ESPN2.

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Series NHRA