Defending race champ optimistic despite setbacks POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 9) -- Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell has encountered a unique problem this weekend at Pomona Raceway. "We're making too much horsepower," the 33-year-old reigning Rookie of...
Defending race champ optimistic despite setbacks
POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 9) -- Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell has encountered a unique problem this weekend at Pomona Raceway. "We're making too much horsepower," the 33-year-old reigning Rookie of the Year said as he grudgingly accepted the less-than-desirable 15th spot in the qualifying order of the season-opening race.
Russell and his Bilstein Engine Flush teammates have been working hard for three straight days to defend the title of the 42nd annual K&N Filters Winternationals for team owner Joe Amato. The problem so far has been one that most teams would embrace--having too much power in their 6,000-horsepower machine.
In four attempts down the Fairplex's famed quarter-mile, the best numbers the group could muster was an off-pace 4.836 at 244.60 mph. The other three laps proved fruitless when Russell's car would overpower the track and disappear in a cloud of tire smoke. The end result is bottom-half start in tomorrow's elimination action, something that happened just five times in 24 races last season.
"We're very disappointed," Russell said. "After all the great progress we made in testing we were certainly expecting a better start then this. Now we're a little behind the eight ball. If we could just get this car through the first 60 feet of the track, we'd be fine.
"I am very confident in the crew and our crew chief Jimmy Walsh. They will have this thing figured out soon. I've always said anything can happen on Race Day. This will be the lowest starting point I've ever had as a professional but if anyone can overcome this, it's this Bilstein Engine Flush team."
Tomorrow may seem familiar to Russell and crew. Last year, in his first race as a Top Fuel driver, Russell started from the bottom half of the field and went on to win the race outright despite never earning the advantage of lane choice throughout the day.
"It helps that we've done it before," Russell said. "We open against Larry Dixon. He ran a 4.509 at 326.87 mph in qualifying so we know he'll be tough. Plus, he's 5-0 against me. But when the lights flash it's anybody's race. We'll certainly give it our best shot."
Primetime elimination coverage of the 42nd annual K&N Filters Winternationals runs from 5-7 p.m., Sunday, on ESPN. The eliminations will be rebroadcast from 3-5 a.m., Monday, Feb. 11, on ESPN, and again from 4-6 a.m., Friday, Feb. 15, on ESPN2. Times are listed in Eastern Standard Time.