Russell moves into coveted top five. ST. LOUIS (June 30) -- Smiles are coming easy for Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell and Joe Amato's Bilstein Engine Flush System race team, even though they fell victim to the intense heat and greasy track ...
Russell moves into coveted top five.
ST. LOUIS (June 30) -- Smiles are coming easy for Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell and Joe Amato's Bilstein Engine Flush System race team, even though they fell victim to the intense heat and greasy track conditions at a sun-splashed Gateway International Raceway Sunday and lost in the second round to Japanese part-timer Yuichi Oyama.
The reason for the grins is a simple one -- by beating Doug Kalitta in the first round of competition, Russell and Co. moved past Kalitta and into the prestigious top five of the POWERade championship points standings, one of the central goals for the team.
"When [crew chief] Wayne Dupuy took over this team in Las Vegas, one of the first things he said was that we needed to get in the top five so that we could be in a position to mix it up every race with the top teams," Russell said. "We were 13th then and hadn't won a round. The fact we've won a race, recorded one runner-up finish, and collected 11 elimination-round wins since then tells you all you need to know about Wayne's ability and the determination of every guy on this Bilstein Engine Flush System team.
"Losing to underdogs is never fun. We had the second quickest car in the first round and we felt like we had a real good chance to beat Yuichi and earn some more championship points. But this track has been a real monster for everyone. Just look at [points leader Larry] Dixon not qualifying; that says it all. We just overpowered it at the starting line. I pedaled it and got back on the throttle but he couldn't be caught."
Russell, 33, overcame early favorite Kalitta in the opening session with a steady 4.784-second pass at 306.12 mph to Kalitta's tire-smoking 5.317 at 268.87 mph. He then got a sizable .495-second to .532-second starting line edge over Oyama in the quarterfinals and was clearly ahead before his giant Goodyear tires broke free from the track and started to spin. Despite recovering to a 5.298-second, 269.56-mph finish, Oyama's uneventful 4.840 at 299.60 mph was enough to give him the victory.
"I congratulate Yuichi Oyama," team co-owner Marty Yacoobian said. "Everybody gets their day in the sun. But I wouldn't trade my driver, my crew chief, or my crew for anything. I couldn't be prouder of the effort they've put forth this weekend and throughout the season and I'm thrilled to be in the top five heading into the West Coast Swing.
Today's elimination rounds will be broadcast from 8-10:30 p.m. (ET), Sunday evening on ESPN2, with a replay from 2-4 p.m. (ET), Tuesday, also on ESPN2.