Las Vegas: Team Amato preview

Team Amato hoping for another Vegas jackpot LAS VEGAS (April 1) -- Just five races ago, NHRA Top Fuel pilot Darrell Russell put the finishing touches on his Rookie of the Year campaign by claiming victory at the fabulous Strip at Las Vegas Motor...

Team Amato hoping for another Vegas jackpot

LAS VEGAS (April 1) -- Just five races ago, NHRA Top Fuel pilot Darrell Russell put the finishing touches on his Rookie of the Year campaign by claiming victory at the fabulous Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Now, five months later, Russell and the rest of the Joe Amato Racing crew arrive in Las Vegas hoping to start a new winning streak, beginning with this weekend's third annual SummitRacing.com Nationals.

Russell racked up 36 elimination round wins in 2001, including national event victories in Las Vegas and Pomona, Calif. So far this season, the team has struggled just to qualify at the first three events, with no round wins on Race Day. But, with new tuner Wayne Dupuy now calling the shots on the Bilstein Engine Flush System dragster, a positive change of fortune should be in store for five-time champion Amato's decorated racing organization.

"It's still very early in the year and we need to approach this championship race logically," Dupuy said. "Joe has assembled all the ingredients for a top-caliber race team here. We just need to figure out the right way to put the pieces together. The good news is that I think we've already made some serious inroads since the last race in Gainesville.

"We're looking at the points standings and we've set some goals. Right now we're about four and a half rounds out of fifth place. So making up those four and a half rounds is the first goal because we're definitely a top-five car. Once we get in the top five, which we should be able to do in the span of a few races, we'll reset our goals and start going after the top spots. Ultimately, we want to be a contender for the POWERade championship."

The 33-year-old Russell is excited to be returning to the site of his latest victory, especially with the support of Amato's reconfigured race team.

"On the schedule it was only five races ago when we won here," Russell said. "But it seems like a lifetime since that happened. We're all pretty excited right now. Wayne has brought a breath of fresh air to this team and it feels like we're heading in the right direction. We needed a fresh start of sorts and I can't think of a better place to begin a new chapter then Vegas. It sure proved to be a lucky race track for us in October. I just hope we can qualify well and start going rounds this time around. We're ready to have some fun. We've earned it."

ESPN2 will present the SummitRacing.com Nationals entirely in primetime. Qualifying highlights will air from 6-8:30 p.m. (Mountain), Saturday, and the elimination rounds will be broadcast from 8-10 p.m. (Mountain), on Sunday. A repeat showing of the elimination rounds follows from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (Mountain), on Tuesday, April 9.

-ta-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Joe Amato