Indianapolis: Valvoline/Eagle One preview

Top Fuel: Russell -- 3 Wins, 4th in Points Darrell Russell comes into his second Mac Tools U.S. Nationals still one of the "hottest" drivers in the NHRA POWERade Top Fuel class. He won 10 of 12 rounds during NHRA's Western Swing (Denver,...

Top Fuel: Russell -- 3 Wins, 4th in Points

Darrell Russell comes into his second Mac Tools U.S. Nationals still one of the "hottest" drivers in the NHRA POWERade Top Fuel class. He won 10 of 12 rounds during NHRA's Western Swing (Denver, Seattle, Somona) and has jumped to fourth in points. Russell won two consecutive races on consecutive weekends, at Denver and Seattle, then made the semifinals at Somona. He now has three wins this season in the Valvoline-backed Bilstein English Flush dragster. After an unproductive start to the season, team owner Joe Amato hired Wayne Dupuy as crew chief beginning at Las Vegas (fourth event) and the new combination has been making steady progress. He was second-quickest among Top Fuel teams testing at Indy earlier this week.

Continuing one of the most successful partnerships in modern motor racing, Valvoline returns in 2002 for the 19th season as a sponsor of Joe Amato's Top Fuel team. From 1984 through his retirement after the 2000 campaign, Valvoline's technical, product and financial support helped Amato to five Top Fuel championships and 52 victories, both NHRA records. Darrell Russell added to the record in 2001, with two wins, and NHRA Rookie of the Year honors in Amato's dragster. Bilstein Engine Flush is Amato Racing's new primary sponsor.

Russell came into last year's U.S. Nationals with experience in NHRA's most important event -- he was the 1997 sportsman class winner -- but as a professional "rookie" with the pressure of taking the seat of retired five-time Top Fuel champion Joe Amato. Russell made it to the second round at Indianapolis Raceway Park in Amato's Valvoline/Keystone Automotive dragster and finished the season with two wins and was honored as NHRA Rookie of the Year.

Darrell Russell on feeling less pressure at his second U.S. Nationals: "I think so. I try not to let stuff like that bother me, simply because, you have to treat it as a normal race. If you try to go in there and tell yourself, 'This is the biggest race of the year,' you just put pressure on yourself and it's a way that you can choke. If you just go in with the mindset that we're going to do what we know how to do, and me drive the car the way I am supposed to, I think it's better."

Joe Amato on Russell: "He's more relaxed, in general, just because he's got more seat time in the car. It shows in his driving; he's learned how to peddle the car (get off-and-on throttle when tires spin). A Top Fuel dragster, compared to an alcohol (sportsman) car, has so much more horsepower. When it does spin the tires, you can peddle the car and still run a good number.

"It's an artform to learn that. Now that he's got a couple hundred runs down the track, he's a lot more comfortable doing what he's doing. You always have butterflys, because it's the U.S. Nationals, but I think he'll be more comfortable."

Pro Stock: Krisher -- 6 Poles, 63 Straight Starts

Ron Krisher gained his sixth No. 1 qualifying effort of the season in the Eagle One Chevrolet Cavalier at the most recent event, in Brainered, Minn. Since Warren Johnson failed to qualify at Somona, ending a 303-race consecutive qualifying streak, Ron Krisher's 63 straight race-day appearances tops the Pro Stock class. In addition to his six poles, Krisher won at Las Vegas.

In pre-Indy testing earlier this week, Krisher's Eagle One Cavalier set an unofficial track Pro Stock record, with a 6.862 second pass. The official track standard is 6.879, set last year by Mark Osborne.

Krisher's qualifying streak dates back to the year 2000 season-opener at Pomona. Pro Stock may well be the most competitive racing series in the world, with between 34-37 cars typically trying for the 16 qualifying positions. Krisher was one of only four drivers to qualify for all 24 NHRA events in 2001.

Krisher owns his own drag racing engine development company, KRJ, located in Newark, Ohio. His company supplies engines to Pro Stock competitors Tom Hammonds and V. Gaines. Before entering Pro Stock, Krisher raced sports cars on road courses and sprint cars on dirt, and he's a self-made entrepreneur.

Krisher on two night qualifying sessions at Indy: "I don't mind running at night. The big thing is where you are in the procession (qualifying order). If you're the first or second car out, before the shadows get longer, the temperature gets colder, the air gets better, that can hurt you. Usually, the daytime sessions at Indy are awful. The night-time, especially at Indy, is critical."

Pro Stock Motorcycle: Hines a 2-Time Indy Winner

Three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Matt Hines has twice won the U.S. Nationals on his Eagle One Suzuki, in 1998 and 1999. He has three No. 1 qualifying efforts this season and won at Denver.

Hines on two evening qualifying sessions at Indy: "If you can't get your bike right by Monday, you've got problems. We've got the K&N Pro Bike Klash (special event) on Saturday, and an extra test pass on Friday night, so we have time to try a lot more stuff."

-v/eo-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Matt Hines , Warren Johnson , Joe Amato , Ron Krisher , Tom Hammonds