Madison: Darrell Russell preview

Russell ready to redeem himself. ST. LOUIS (June 24) -- Darrell Russell's Top Fuel dragster is a very fast race car. He knows it and the numbers he's been producing since crew chief Wayne Dupuy joined Joe Amato's Bilstein Engine Flush...

Russell ready to redeem himself.

ST. LOUIS (June 24) -- Darrell Russell's Top Fuel dragster is a very fast race car. He knows it and the numbers he's been producing since crew chief Wayne Dupuy joined Joe Amato's Bilstein Engine Flush System team earlier this season in Las Vegas prove it.

After posting a career-high second-place qualifying effort at the POWERade tour's last stop in Columbus, Ohio, sophomore driver Russell was convinced he had a race car that could help him collect his second victory of the season and fourth of his short professional career. He even breezed through the opening round and easily out-ran second-round opponent Tony Schumacher by over half a second on race day. Problem was, Russell eliminated himself in that fateful quarterfinal match-up with his first and only career red-light foul when he left the starting line before the light turned green.

"I'm not planning on doing anything different when I get to St. Louis -- except not turning on the red-light," said Russell, who has completed well over 1,000 passes down the quarter-mile in his 17-year career. "I'd be foolish to change my routine at this point. It's been working too well all these years. From driving a Super Comp dragster, to a Top Alcohol dragster, to this Top Fuel machine, I've only red-lighted a handful of times.

"I haven't lost any confidence in my abilities or the car or this Bilstein Engine Flush System team. We've shown over the last several races that we have one of the quickest and fastest cars out here and I expect that to continue at Gateway International Raceway."

Since Dupuy joined Team Amato, Russell has jumped from 13th place in the POWERade championship points standings to his current ranking of sixth, a position he's now held for three consecutive races. He trails fifth-ranked Doug Kalitta by just 12 points, or less than one round of action, and is within striking distance of Schumacher, who leads him by 133 points, and Cory McClenathan, who is 138 points ahead in third place. Russell's deficit to McClenathan, 138 points, is the maximum number of points one can earn in a single race.

"Summer is here and Wayne-o is a master of finding the right tune-up for the hot conditions we expect to encounter along the way," said Russell, who won the Top Alcohol Dragster title in St. Louis in 1997. "We're ready to get back on the track and win again."

The qualifying rounds of the sixth annual Sears Craftsman Nationals air from 9-11 p.m. (ET), Saturday, on ESPN2, with a repeat showing Sunday morning from 5-7 a.m. (ET), also on ESPN2. Final round coverage runs from 8-10:30 p.m. (ET), Sunday evening, on ESPN2, with a rebroadcast from 2-4 p.m. (ET), Tuesday, July 2, on ESPN2.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Doug Kalitta , Cory McClenathan