Drag Illustrated Issue 171, September / October 2021 | Page 45

pass wasn ’ t even our quickest 60-foot of the weekend . To go out there and be able to run . 980 60- foots in a car that weighed 2800 pounds at the time was just huge .”
Distefano went on to win the Doorslammer Derby , his first of three wins in the first six races of the 2021 PDRA season . His other wins came at the North vs . South Shootout at Maryland International Raceway and the Northern Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway . Outside of PDRA points races , Distefano also won the $ 15,000-to-win World Doorslammer Nationals at Orlando in March , as well as the $ 7,500-towin Summit Racing Equipment PDRA ProStars race at Virginia Motorsports Park in late July .
According to Russell , a simple philosophy has taken the car from a hit-or-miss player to a constant final round hitter : don ’ t be your own worst enemy .
“ The first year in the class , I think we could ’ ve won some more races ,” Russell believes , “ but it was always , ‘ Oh , we ’ re racing so and so , we have to step up . We have to do this , we have to do that .’ Last year , we kind of started out doing that , then by the middle of the year it was like , “ You know what , this is what we ’ re running . Make everybody else catch us .’ At the last race at Pennsylvania , we qualified No . 1 , we ran 4.19 first round , 4.22 second round , and 4.23 in the semis . We came back to the pit , I did my maintenance and I shut the laptop and I didn ’ t touch it for the final . And it goes out there and goes 4.22 .”
Along with working to make Distefano a front runner in Pro Outlaw 632 , Russell has played a critical role in bringing Vinny LaRosa and his “ Feather Duster ” ’ 71 Duster up to speed . Russell met LaRosa and his team , Aaron Cashwell and Clyde Lovette , at the 2019 GALOT spring race and hit it off after the trio helped Russell rebuild an engine overnight . He started helping them with the chassis setup before eventually offering to rebuild the car .
“ We went 4.40s with the car , but it wasn ’ t what it needed to be to be competitive in 632 ,” Russell says . “ I got with Vinny and said we can redo this thing and make it right . We got together , worked on a price , and he brought the car over . It was a complete running car when it rolled into the garage . I cut the body off the chassis , set the body on my chassis table and started bending up tubes .”
LaRosa has progressed since bringing the car out earlier this season . After running a . 982 60-foot time in testing at Coastal Plains Dragway ahead of Proline Racing PDRA DragWars presented by Modern Racing , Russell is eager to see what LaRosa can do at the final two races of the season .
Russell is quick to credit Distefano , Swallow and the rest of the team for their respective roles in the team ’ s success . Specifically , Russell ’ s wife , Shawne , is a key player in the operation , from the late nights back at Russell ’ s shop in Ohio to the long hours at the track .
“ Without her doing what she ’ s doing , I couldn ’ t do this ,” Russell says . “ Actually , in the chassis shop I worked in , she ran the office and I ran the shop part of it . So we ’ ve worked together for going on seven years now between the chassis shop and the race team . And she races also . She has the background . She can look at the time tickets , she can look at the Racepak . She spends time going over data , I spend time going over data . It helps to have somebody there at home that you can bounce stuff off of . You look at the big data while you ’ re at the track , then you go home and analyze everything .
“ It ’ s nice ,” Russell continues . “ Like everybody else , we have our problems , but when it comes to the car , we do what we need to do and we get it done .”
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