Gainesville: Darrell Russell first round elimination recap

Progress comes slowly for Russell GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 17) -- For the third race in a row, reigning Rookie of the Year Darrell Russell has been eliminated in the first round of competition at an NHRA national event. The 33-year-old Texan...

Progress comes slowly for Russell

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 17) -- For the third race in a row, reigning Rookie of the Year Darrell Russell has been eliminated in the first round of competition at an NHRA national event. The 33-year-old Texan fell to Doug Kalitta in today's opening session of the 33rd annual Mac Tools Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway when Russell's Bilstein Engine Flush Systems dragster encountered engine failure at the hit of the throttle. Russell could only watch as Kalitta pulled away for a 4.724-second to 4.896-second win.

"I had him at the Christmas Tree," Russell said of his substantial .464-second to .518-second headstart. "But we dropped a cylinder right away and he had already caught me by the 60-foot timer. I kept my foot in it hoping something would happen to his car but he just slowly inched away and took the win. His eight cylinders beat our seven.

"A lot of people are asking if I'm frustrated. I'm not. We're certainly not happy with our start but there is way too much talent here to fall apart. Joe Amato has assembled a great team and he sure didn't win more Top Fuel races then anyone else in history by making bad choices. He's actually been a very calming influence on all of us during this down time.

"We'll be up to speed soon, I'm convinced of that. We have an extensive test session scheduled before the next race in Las Vegas and I'm optimistic that we'll find and fix our problems before then. We won at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway late last year so we have to keep our lucky streak alive there."

Despite the first-round exit, Russell and his Matco Tools/Valvoline/American Racing Wheels-sponsored team actually moved up one slot on the POWERade Championship Points Standings to the No. 13 position.

The elimination rounds of the 33rd annual Gatornationals air from 5-7 p.m., Sunday, on ESPN2, with a repeat showing from 2:30-4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

-gm/rg-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Joe Amato , Doug Kalitta