Sonoma: Darrell Russell preview

Drag racing's hottest driver? Darrell Russell. SONOMA, Calif. (July 30) -- The hottest driver on the POWERade Drag Racing Series heading into this weekend's 15th annual Fram-Autolite NHRA Nationals isn't John Force, Kenny Bernstein, or Larry...

Drag racing's hottest driver? Darrell Russell.

SONOMA, Calif. (July 30) -- The hottest driver on the POWERade Drag Racing Series heading into this weekend's 15th annual Fram-Autolite NHRA Nationals isn't John Force, Kenny Bernstein, or Larry Dixon -- it's reigning Rookie of the Year pilot Darrell Russell. As winner of the last two national events in Denver and Seattle, the Bilstein Engine Flush System-sponsored driver arrives at Infineon Raceway in search of one of drag racing's rarest accomplishments, a sweep of the Western Swing.

Should Russell win this weekend's race he would become just the fourth driver in NHRA history to win all three races on the Western Swing in the same calendar year. Russell's team owner, all-time Top Fuel wins leader Joe Amato, did it first in 1991. Then came 11-time Funny Car champion John Force in 1994. Finally, Top Fuel driver Cory McClenathan "swept the Swing" in 1997. Interestingly, Amato almost became the first driver to do it twice in 1999, but came up one win shy of getting the job done.

"It's pretty cool to be in this position," Russell said. "But I'm not going to put any pressure on myself or this team. Our routine isn't going to change. I'll say this; the best crew with the car that's running the best will win this race, guaranteed. I hope it's us"

By posting an 8-0 record over the last two weekends, Russell, a 33-year-old from Hockley, Texas, has moved to within four points of fourth place in the POWERade championship points standings. He also is just 46 points out of third place.

"It's been very exciting to win two and a row and to have beaten both of the beer cars in Seattle," said Russell, who now has five career victories. "And it's fun to continue chasing those guys down in the points. Our crew chief Wayne Dupuy has this Bilstein Engine Flush dragster running so consistently right now. It goes from one end to the other almost every pass and it's not hurting parts, which is important. Plus the chemistry amongst the crew and between Wayne and I is sky-high. These are all pieces of the puzzle that need to be there for us to continue running as well as we have."

"I look at the start of the season where we lost in the first round three times in a row and then I look at the last 11 races since Wayne took over and I see that we've won three races and runner-upped at another and it seems like two different worlds."

The ESPN2 television network will cover this weekend's 15th annual Fram-Autolite NHRA Nationals. Qualifying highlights will air from 9-10 p.m. (ET) on Saturday. The elimination rounds will be broadcast in primetime from 7-10 p.m. (ET), Sunday, with a repeat showing of the eliminations from 2:30-5:30 a.m. (ET), Tuesday, August 6.

-jar-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , John Force , Joe Amato , Cory McClenathan