Rain helps Russell earn first career pole. POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 9) -- Second-year Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell has captured the first Budweiser Low Qualifier award of his career after relentless rain forced the outright cancellation of the ...
Rain helps Russell earn first career pole.
POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 9) -- Second-year Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell has captured the first Budweiser Low Qualifier award of his career after relentless rain forced the outright cancellation of the final three qualifying sessions of the Auto Club Finals. Russell's solo blast of 4.571 seconds at 313.22 mph from Thursday afternoon set the early mark and Mother Nature took care of the rest, awarding Russell's Bilstein Engine Flush team a $4,000 bonus from Anheuser Busch.
"It's a bit of a lucky break for us," Russell said, "because I know there are plenty of cars here that probably could have run quicker then that given the opportunity. At the same time, there's no reason to think we couldn't have stepped it up a bit also. I clicked it off at 4.3-seconds so I know we had some more left in this Bilstein Engine Flush dragster.
"Either way we're thrilled to earn our first Budweiser Low Qualifier check. That's been a goal for this team ever since Wayne Dupuy took over as crew chief and I know the guys are happy to get it in before the year is up."
Russell will open eliminations against Andrew Cowin, who was added to the field of the Auto Club Finals according to the rules regarding shortened qualifying sessions at national events. Cowin's only pass was an aborted 9.821 at 81.44 mph, which had left him outside the field in 18th place. But as a top-10 points earner, Cowin was inserted in place of final qualifier Clay Millican. Russell is a perfect 8-0 against Cowin.
"We all wanted to get some more laps in but I can say I'm very happy the NHRA has made the decision to let us race," Russell said. "We know that not a lot of cars have gone down the track so far and it'll be interesting to see what happens in the morning. I'm glad we can pick what pair we want to be because I'd hate to be the first one out there. That's the biggest reward of being the No. 1 qualifier. It's my first one and it couldn't have come at a better time. Cowin's car has been running good here lately and he's not the first-round opponent I would have picked, but it is what it is."
The rain also has forced the postponement of today's scheduled Budweiser Shootout, a special race for the top eight qualifiers from the last year that would have featured Russell squaring off in the opening session against retiring legend Kenny Bernstein. The Shootout will now be run during the 2003 season-opening Winternationals in February with Russell racing Bernstein's son Brandon, who is set to replace his father in the seat of the family's dragster.
Sunday's sudden-death elimination action will be broadcast from 5-7 p.m. (ET) on ESPN, and will continue from 7-8 p.m. (ET) on ESPN2.