Millington: Darrell Russell preview

Confident Russell ready to attack Memphis. MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Sept. 18) -- With three victories in four final-round appearances this season, sophomore Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell is already having a career year in Joe Amato's Bilstein Engine ...

Confident Russell ready to attack Memphis.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Sept. 18) -- With three victories in four final-round appearances this season, sophomore Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell is already having a career year in Joe Amato's Bilstein Engine Flush System Dragster. Still, as the NHRA tour turns to Memphis Motorsports Park and this weekend's 15th annual O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals, all Russell can think about adding another trophy to the five he's collected as a pro driver.

There is every reason to believe Russell's wishes could be granted in Memphis. As a decorated sportsman racer he earned three divisional titles at this facility in his family-owned Top Alcohol Dragster, claiming the hardware in 1991, '95, and '96. He can also lean on the experience of Amato, the sport's all-time wins leader in Top Fuel, who earned two of his record 52 national event trophies at this racetrack in 1993 and '98.

Even so, despite the history his team has enjoyed in western Tennessee, Russell's optimism really lies in the performance his 6,500-horsepower machine showed just a few days ago in rural Pennsylvania. With crew chief Wayne Dupuy calling the shots, Russell improved his best elapsed time and top speed for six consecutive rounds through qualifying and race day action until a faulty part slowed him in the semifinals.

"I think we all felt like we had the car to beat in Reading," said Russell, who turns 34 Friday. "We came out Monday morning after Sunday's rain-out and posted the quickest and the fastest lap of the quarterfinals. Every car racing that round was in the Top 10 of the POWERade points and we were the best of the bunch. That says all I need to know.

"Memphis Motorsports Park is another one of the tricky tracks we go to where weather and track conditions really test the drivers and the crew chiefs. Wherever we've been this year where that's the case, we've shined. Wayne always seems to get up for the challenge and I think he showed in Reading he has a good handle on this Bilstein Engine Flush dragster.

"Quite honestly, we can't afford a letdown and I don't expect one. The points race has gotten very close again and when it's all said and done, we want to be on top of the group of teams we're fighting against. We made up ground in Reading and Cory McClenathan is only five points ahead of us now in fourth place. But Doug Kalitta won Reading and is only 19 points behind us. And we haven't lost sight of Tony Schumacher, who is 72 points up in third place. There's lots of racing left and we're confident in our abilities. We look forward to the challenge ahead. It should be an exciting finish to the season."

The qualifying rounds of the O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals will be shown from 10 p.m.-12 a.m. (ET), Saturday, on ESPN2. Elimination coverage will air from 4-7 p.m. (ET), Sunday, on ESPN2, with a rebroadcast from 2:30-4:30 a.m. (ET), on Sept. 27, also on ESPN2.

-jar-

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