Seattle: Darrell Russell preview

Denver win has Russell and Team Bilstein pumped up. SEATTLE (July 24) -- Fresh off their second victory of the 2002 POWERade season, reigning Rookie of the Year driver Darrell Russell and the rest of Joe Amato's Bilstein Engine Flush System Top...

Denver win has Russell and Team Bilstein pumped up.

SEATTLE (July 24) -- Fresh off their second victory of the 2002 POWERade season, reigning Rookie of the Year driver Darrell Russell and the rest of Joe Amato's Bilstein Engine Flush System Top Fuel racing team are excited about this weekend's race in Seattle. The only problem is, the race starts Friday with the first two rounds of qualifying.

"It seems like we always win races in back-to-back situations where you only have a day or two to enjoy it," Russell said with a laugh. "It's still a wonderful feeling and the whole team is pumped. Hopefully, we can keep it going. Our goal is to keep moving up in the points. We want to move up at least one more spot by the end of the Western Swing."

Russell, 33, is currently fifth in the POWERade points and trails fourth-place driver Tony Schumacher by 79 points and third-place pro Cory McClenathan by 99 points. A round win on race day is worth 20 points, meaning Russell will need to outlast his rivals by a few rounds in both Seattle and Sonoma, Calif., to accomplish his goal. There is certainly no reason to think that won't happen as crew chief Wayne Dupuy has the 6,000-horsepower Bilstein Engine Flush System dragster running as consistently as a bracket car.

"Going from a mile up to sea-level means the crew has a lot of work to do in a short amount of time," Russell said. "Plus, the Seattle track is marginal at best, which always means extra-special tuning is required to find that perfect balance that will get you down the track. But I think it's become pretty obvious that this Bilstein Engine Flush crew can handle anything. There's no reason to think we won't be a contender this weekend."

Just as they did in Denver, Russell and Dupuy can rely on team owner Joe Amato giving them some top-notch, first-hand advice on how to succeed at Pacific Raceways. A five-time series champion and the sport's all-time leader in Top Fuel wins with 52 national event titles, Amato was a perfect five-for-five in final-round appearances at this track, winning the Top Fuel class in 1989, '91, '94, '98, and '99.

"It's always been a good track," Amato said. "It's probably one of my favorite places. The key there is to make sure you get down the track every lap. And you can step on it there also. If the conditions are right, it's got some decent teeth. I won all three races on the Western Swing [in 1991] and the key was winning Seattle. It's a big change to go from Denver to Seattle. If you can win both of those, you've accomplished something."

ESPN will carry the qualifying rounds of the 15th annual Northwest Nationals from 7-9 p.m. (ET), Saturday. Final round coverage runs in primetime from 7-9 p.m. (ET), Sunday, on ESPN2, with a rebroadcast from 3-5 a.m. (ET), Tuesday, July 30, on ESPN2.

-jar-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato