Sonoma: Darrell Russell Saturday summary

Quest for 'sweep' starts from mid-pack. SONOMA, Calif. (August 3) -- Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell, winner of the last two events on the POWERade Drag Racing Series, will begin his quest for a sweep of the NHRA's Western Swing -- consecutive...

Quest for 'sweep' starts from mid-pack.

SONOMA, Calif. (August 3) -- Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell, winner of the last two events on the POWERade Drag Racing Series, will begin his quest for a sweep of the NHRA's Western Swing -- consecutive races in Denver, Seattle, and Sonoma -- from the No. 8 position. Russell's best qualifying pass of this weekend's 15th annual Fram-Autolite NHRA Nationals was a 4.712-second run at 301.40 mph.

This will mark the ninth time this season the Bilstein Engine Flush System dragster will start race day in the upper half of the field. Because of that fact, Russell, a 33-year-old from Houston, will enjoy the advantage of lane choice over first-round opponent Tony Schumacher, who posted a 4.714 at 302.89 mph. The match-up between Russell and his good friend Schumacher takes on added importance as Schumacher is just three points ahead of Russell in the points standings in fourth place.

"It will be a big first-round race, no doubt," Russell said. "Tony knows what's on the line and I'm sure they don't want to finish the Western Swing with three first-round losses, which is what he's facing. They'll be working hard to beat us.

"The truth is both Wayne (Dupuy, Russell's crew chief) and I have been struggling this weekend. My driving and reaction times are off and his tune-up isn't quite right. I have no doubt we'll put it together for race day. We've been talking about what's going on and we're both encouraged about the progress we made today."

Many teams seemed to struggle somewhat with the brand-new racing surface of Infineon Raceway, formerly known as Sears Point Raceway. Among the numerous upgrades to the drag racing portion of the facility was the addition of 660-feet of concrete from the starting line to mid-track and the rerouting of the road course so it avoids the drag strip completely, thereby yielding a superior racing surface.

"We just got behind when the ignition misfired in the first round," Dupuy said. "With no data from that run I just flat-out missed it Friday night. The track was so good it just ate the clutch up. I decided to add more power today and I never quite got the clutch in sync with the power I was trying to give it. The good news is I know exactly what needs to be done now and we'll be kicking butt tomorrow. No one should take us lightly."

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) today. 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.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Schumacher