Race for Indy glory starts at mid-pack for Russell. INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 1) -- Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell will begin the battle for his second U.S. Nationals championship from the No. 8 position. Russell, who claimed victory here in 1997 in...
Race for Indy glory starts at mid-pack for Russell.
INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 1) -- Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell will begin the battle for his second U.S. Nationals championship from the No. 8 position. Russell, who claimed victory here in 1997 in a Top Alcohol Dragster, drove Joe Amato's Bilstein Engine Flush System nitro-powered machine through five qualifying attempts over the past three days, posting a best time and speed of 4.625 seconds at 307.30 mph.
"Were certainly very happy to be in the top half of the field again," said Russell, who has now recorded 10 top-half qualifying efforts in 17 races this season. "At the same time I don't think anyone on this team is super happy with how we've performed so far. We definitely wanted more."
Russell, a 33-year-old from Hockley, Texas, will open Monday's sudden-death eliminations opposite his good friend Tony Schumacher, who qualified ninth with a 4.649 at 321.65 mph. Due to his superior elapsed time, Russell will have lane choice over Schumacher, against whom he owns a 4-3 head-to-head record.
"I did an interview this weekend and they asked me who my favorite opponent was," Russell said. "I said Tony Schumacher. We're good friends and when we race its like going up against your brother. You want to win because you never want your brother to have anything to give you a hard time about. The truth is Tony's a great competitor and a talented driver and he poses a real challenge. But to win the race you have to beat them all so we'll just do the best we can and see what happens."
The race against Schumacher will decide fourth place in the congested top-five of the POWERade points. Currently, Russell leads Schumacher by just 14 points, while he trails No. 3 points earner and this race's low qualifier Cory McClenathan by 34 points.
"The truth is we've got gremlins to overcome if we want to do anything tomorrow," team owner Amato said. "We could have qualified a lot better but we had gremlins attack us in the two night sessions and that set us back a bit. Still, our crew chief Wayne Dupuy has gotten down several times when the sun's been out and its been hot, which is what we'll see tomorrow, so we have a pretty good chance to do some good. We'll see."
The 17 hours of U.S. Nationals race coverage continues tonight on ESPN2 with qualifying highlights airing from 9:30 p.m.-midnight (ET). Elimination round coverage starts at 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (ET), Monday, with the later rounds airing from 4:30-7:30 p.m. (ET), Monday evening. A repeat of the race will be shown from 2-5 a.m. (ET), Tuesday, and again from 3-5:30 p.m. (ET), Saturday.