Pomona: Darrell Russell finals report

POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 10) -- The defense of the Top Fuel title at the 42nd annual K&N Filters Winternationals fell early when 2001 champion Darrell Russell bowed out in the first session of Sunday's eliminations. Just as it did in qualifying, ...

POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 10) -- The defense of the Top Fuel title at the 42nd annual K&N Filters Winternationals fell early when 2001 champion Darrell Russell bowed out in the first session of Sunday's eliminations. Just as it did in qualifying, Russell's Bilstein Engine Flush dragster lost traction at the hit of the throttle. The 33-year-old Texan could only watch as his opponent, Larry Dixon, drove away for an easy win.

Adding to the misery of the loss was the fact that Dixon's car was smoking its tires from half-track on, posting a beatable 4.992 at 274.27 mph. Russell fought to regain control of his car and was back on the throttle and quickly closing the gap on Dixon. But the momentum was with Dixon and Russell eventually surrendered with a 6.659 at 215.68 mph.

"I just ran out of racetrack," Russell said. "I got back into it as soon as my tires stopped spinning but Larry was too far gone by then. It's disappointing, especially because this is home for all the people from Bilstein Engine Flush. We wanted to give them something to cheer about. It just wasn't our day.

"We encountered the same exact problem that got us all weekend. I doubt if I went one foot before it smoked the tires. This car has just turned into an animal and so far we haven't found a way to calm it down."

Russell, team owner Joe Amato, and the rest of the Bilstein Engine Flush crew now have two weeks to wait until they can redeem themselves. The 18th annual Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals run from Feb. 21-24 at Phoenix's Firebird International Raceway. Last season Russell made it to the finals in Arizona before settling for runner-up honors.

"It'll be good to get back there," Russell said. "We ran some great times at Firebird Raceway in January, especially down low where we struggled this weekend. We were posting hero 60-foot numbers, most in the low .820s and one at .812, and it looked totally safe. Then we come here and the same set-up hopped the car up a little too much.

"A week ago I thought we were well on our way to a great start. But drag racing's a humbling sport. We won't get too down. It's a long season and we'd rather struggle early and get it figured out now. I'm completely confident in Jimmy Walsh and this crew. Hopefully, this weekend will be a distant memory for all of us very soon."

Primetime elimination coverage of the 42nd annual K&N Filters Winternationals runs from 5-7 p.m. (EST), today, on ESPN. The eliminations will be rebroadcast from 3-5 a.m. (EST), Monday, Feb. 11, on ESPN, and again from 4-6 a.m. (EST), Friday, Feb. 15, on ESPN2.

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Joe Amato