Pomona II: Darrell Russell Thursday summary

Russell opens Pomona race as provisional No. 1 qualifier. POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 7) -- Darrell Russell, one of eight Top Fuel drivers who can "double-up" this weekend with victories in both the Budweiser Shootout and the Auto Club NHRA Finals, got...

Russell opens Pomona race as provisional No. 1 qualifier.

POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 7) -- Darrell Russell, one of eight Top Fuel drivers who can "double-up" this weekend with victories in both the Budweiser Shootout and the Auto Club NHRA Finals, got off to a quick start in his Bilstein Engine Flush dragster with a pole-grabbing 4.571 at 313.22 mph. The pass came after a lengthy rain delay when temperatures had dropped into the low 60s.

"There are definitely a lot of hot cars out here so I don't know if that'll hold for the No. 1 spot but we're certainly happy to start off the weekend like this," Russell said. "We're here for two races really, with the Budweiser Shootout looming on Saturday, so it's really important to start off strong and make a nice pass right out of the trailer. I didn't even think we'd get a chance when it started raining earlier. I'm glad it cleared up a bit.

"Now that we have this one in the books we can really get aggressive when the Bud deal starts. We can move right into race mode. Sometimes you get to that deal and you haven't even qualified well so you tend not to get after it as hard as you can. We don't need to worry about that. With all the money that's on the line this weekend it's nice to get any kind of edge you can."

Russell, who has never collected low qualifier honors in his two-year professional career, had to do some driving to get Joe Amato's dragster down historic Pomona Raceway. Racing out of the left lane, the car veered towards the centerline early before straightening out downtrack, with only a slight sashay near the finish line.

"Right before the run my crew chief told me to aim towards the centerline at first because the groove seemed to carry in that direction," Russell said. "Then I pulled it back towards the center and just went on down through there. I did click it off early, maybe at 1,100 or 1,200 feet, because it didn't feel quite right to me, but I doubt we would have been much quicker than we were. It was a good run for us."

Qualifying highlights and the elimination rounds of the Budweiser Shootout will air from 10 p.m.-Midnight (ET), Saturday, on ESPN2. Sunday's sudden-death elimination action from the Auto Club NHRA Finals will be broadcast from 5-7 p.m. (ET), Sunday evening, on ESPN, and will continue from 7-8 p.m. (ET), Sunday, on ESPN2.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Joe Amato