Pomona II: Darrell Russell preview

Dreams of doubling-up dancing in Russell's mind. POMONA, Calif. -- Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell has just one number on his mind as the 2002 POWERade Drag Racing Series draws to a close this weekend in Pomona, Calif. -- $190,000. That's...

Dreams of doubling-up dancing in Russell's mind.

POMONA, Calif. -- Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell has just one number on his mind as the 2002 POWERade Drag Racing Series draws to a close this weekend in Pomona, Calif. -- $190,000. That's exactly how much money Russell and his Bilstein Engine Flush teammates could earn for team owner Joe Amato if they do their jobs to perfection.

Russell would earn $40,000 if he takes home the trophy of this weekend's 38th annual Auto Club of Southern California Finals. Additionally, as one of the top eight qualifiers of the last 23 NHRA national events, the sophomore driver has been invited to compete in Saturday's 18th annual Budweiser Shootout, which awards $100,000 to its winner. If Russell manages to win both events, a feat he came within two seconds of accomplishing in February of 2001, he would receive an extra $50,000 "Double-Up" bonus from the NHRA.

"It's hard to even comprehend that kind of money," said Russell, who along with his crewmembers receives a generous share of the car's winnings. "But if not for a broken blower belt we would have swept the table just 20 months ago. It's tough to do, yet it's a very real possibility if you get everything going in the right direction on a given weekend."

The reigning NHRA Rookie of the Year opened his professional career in February of 2001 with a victory on Pomona's hallowed quarter-mile. That same weekend, Russell raced to the finals of the 16th annual Budweiser Shootout as an emergency fill-in for the retiring Amato. The Shootout was to be contested in November of 2000 but was delayed until February by rain. Since it was essentially the same car and crew, Russell was allowed to compete in the event in Amato's place.

"We came close to pulling it off for Joe," Russell said. "I remember being well ahead of Gary Scelzi in the finals when our blower belt broke. Gary went by and won with a 4.76 to our 6.77. There was nothing I could do but watch. We'd like to change that this time."

Amato should be able to provide some sound advice this weekend. With 16 successive appearances from 1985-2000, the sport's all-time Top Fuel wins leader has raced in more Budweiser Shootout's than anyone in the history of the event. His six wins in seven final-round appearances are also a record and his 1990 feat of "doubling-up" represent the only time a Top Fuel driver has accomplished the act.

This race will be shown in primetime from 5-7 p.m. (ET), Sunday, on ESPN, the network's primary station. Prior to that, ESPN2 will carry highlights of the qualifying action from 9-11 p.m. (ET), Saturday, with a repeat showing from 1:30-3:30 a.m. (ET) Sunday morning. A repeat broadcast of the eliminations will air from 2-4 p.m. (ET), on ESPN2.

-jar-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi