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Top Fuel: Amato and Russell Praise Bernstein Joe Amato, owner of the Valvoline-backed Bilstein English Flush dragster driven by Darrell Russell, is a long-time close friend -- and golfing buddy -- of Kenny Bernstein. Defending NHRA Top Fuel ...

Top Fuel: Amato and Russell Praise Bernstein

Joe Amato, owner of the Valvoline-backed Bilstein English Flush dragster driven by Darrell Russell, is a long-time close friend -- and golfing buddy -- of Kenny Bernstein. Defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Bernstein is in the midst of his "Forever Red" tour, his last season as an active driver. Amato understands the emotions involved in such a season. He had planned such a farewell campaign for 2001, but eye problems forced him to stop driving at the end of 2000. Amato hired Darrell Russell, who won twice en route to NHRA Rookie of the Year honors last season. Russell won Memorial Day weekend, in Topeka, and had a career-high No. 2 qualifying effort at the most recent event, near Columbus, Ohio.

Darrell Russell on Bernstein: "I don't know Kenny nearly as well as Joe does. Watching as a kid, there were three guys that you always looked up to: Joe Amato, Kenny Bernstein and Don Prudhomme. Those were the guys who pioneered a lot of things in this sport. I used to idolize Kenny as a kid. He was my favorite driver. I've always looked up to him because he's done so much for the sport, his professionalism at the track, that's always impressed me. His competitiveness on the racetrack speaks for itself. I don't think you'll find a more intense competitor out there. He's the guy you want to beat, no doubt about that."

"Probably in 1984 or '85, my parents and I went to the Cajun Nationals. My Dad has this picture of me -- I was like 15 years old -- getting an autograph from Kenny Bernstein. Then, last year, he was signing off on my Top Fuel license. It's interesting how life makes a full circle."

Joe Amato on Bernstein: "We've talked a lot about it (retirement). He knows it's (last season) going to be intense. Budweiser will make a big deal out of it and it will be nice. One nice thing about it is he has a son (Brandon) he can stick in the car. I think he's comfortable and accomplished what he's wanted to do. He's beat up pretty good from being in the car and racing all these years, his neck and his back. I think he'll be OK because he's a pretty tough character. He's ready. His mind is ready to get out of the car, but it will probably be pretty emotional at the end, but once he gets there, he'll be happy."

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.

SEASON-TO-DATE:
Pomona (2/10) -- Qualified 15th. Lost in first round to Larry Dixon.
Firebird (2/24) -- Qualified 12th. Lost in first round to Doug Kalitta.
Gainesville (3/17) -- Qualified 13th. Lost in first round to Doug Kalitta.
Las Vegas (4/7) -- Qualified 12th. Lost in second round to Tony Schumacher.
Houston (4/14) -- Qualified seventh. Lost in first round to John Smith.
Bristol (4/28) -- Qualified sixth. Lost in final round to Larry Dixon.
Atlanta (5/5) -- Qualified 14th. Lost in first round to Cory McClenathan.
Englishtown (5/19) -- Qualified fourth. Lost in first round to Scott Weis.
Topeka (5/26) -- Qualified third. Won final round over Larry Dixon.
Route 66 (6/2) -- Qualified third. Lost in second round to Larry Dixon.
Columbus (6/16) -- Qualified second. Lost in second round to Tony Schumacher.
Currently sixth in Top Fuel points.

DARRELL RUSSELL
Age: 33
Residence: Hockley, Tex.
2001 Season: NHRA Rookie of the Year
2 wins (Pomona, Feb.; Las Vegas, Oct.)
Sixth in Top Fuel points.
Career Wins: 3

JOE AMATO
Age: 57
Residence: Moosic, Pa.
Career: NHRA Top Fuel record-holder with five championships and 52 wins.
Retired following 2000 season.

Pro Stock: Krisher Former Gateway Winner

Ron Krisher won his second career NHRA Pro Stock event at Gateway Raceway in 2000. He drove his Eagle One Firebird to victory over Greg Anderson in the finals. He's currently fifth in Pro Stock points in the Eagle One Chevrolet Cavalier.

Krisher has now qualified for an impressive 58 consecutive Pro Stock events, going 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.

SEASON-TO-DATE:
Pomona (2/10) -- Qualified first. Lost in first round to George Marnell.
Firebird (2/24) -- Qualified first. Lost in second round to Kurt Johnson.
Gainesville (3/17) -- Qualified first. Lost in first round (red light) to Mark Whisnant.
Las Vegas (4/7) -- Qualified first. Won final round over Darrell Alderman.
Houston (4/14) -- Qualified fourth. Lost in first round to Bruce Allen.
Bristol (4/28) -- Qualified fifth. Lost in final round to Warren Johnson.
Atlanta (5/5) -- Qualified seventh. Lost in first round to Darrell Alderman.
Englishtown (5/19) -- Qualified 15th. Lost in first round to Jeg Coughlin.
Topeka (5/26) -- Qualified 16th. Lost in first round to Jim Yates.
Route 66 (6/2) -- Qualified fifth. Lost in first round to Greg Anderson.
Columbus (6/16) -- Qualified fourth. Lost in second round to Greg Anderson.
Currently fifth in Pro Stock points.

RON KRISHER
Age: 54
Residence: Warren, Ohio
2001 Season: 1 win (Topeka)
Eighth in Pro Stock points
Career Wins: 4

Pro Stock Motorcycle: Hines Has 2 Wins at Gateway

Three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Matt Hines is a two-time bike winner at Gateway Raceway. He rode his Eagle One Suzuki to victory in both 1998 and 2000. He was the No. 1 qualifier at the most recent event, near Columbus, Ohio, and his currently fourth in points.

SEASON-TO-DATE:
Gainesville (3/17) -- Qualified first. Lost in second round to Reggie Showers
Houston (4/14) -- Qualified fourth. Lost in second round to Geno Scali.
Atlanta (5/5) -- Qualified second. Lost in final round to Angelle Savoie.
Englishtown (5/19) -- Qualified second. Lost in first round to Thomas Miceli.
Route 66 (6/2) -- Qualified fifth. Lost in semifinals to Angelle Savoie.
Columbus (6/16) -- Qualified first. Lost in semifinals to Craig Treble.
Currently fourth in Pro Stock Bike points.

MATT HINES
Age: 30
Residence: Trinadad, Colo.
2001 Season: 2 wins (Gainesville, Englishtown)
Third in Pro Stock Motorcycle points
Career: Three-time NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle champion (1997-98-99). NHRA
Pro Stock Motorcycle record 28 wins.

NEXT EVENT: Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals, Bandimere Speedway, Morrison, Colo., July 19-21.

-valvoline

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Matt Hines , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Kurt Johnson , Joe Amato , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , Craig Treble , Cory McClenathan , Don Prudhomme , Bruce Allen , Tom Hammonds , Geno Scali , George Marnell , Mark Whisnant