Darrell Russell (dragster driver)
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Before becoming a driver in NHRA's Professional class of Top Fuel Dragster, he competed for several years in NHRA's Sportsman (amateur) class of Top Alcohol Dragster; a slower version of Top Fuel. In four seasons of competition in NHRA Top Fuel Dragsters, he compiled a record of 106 round wins versus 75 loses. He won six events and was runner-up at eleven others, out of eighty-one events entered.
He was fatally injured during eliminations at the Sears Craftsman Nationals in Madison, Illinois. He was competing in the second round of eliminations when his dragster went out of control and crashed just past the finish line. When the NHRA safety team got to Russell, he was unconscious, but breathing. Russell was extracted from his dragster by NHRA emergency services officials and transported by air to the St. Louis Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead. His dragster broke up after he crossed the finish line. One of the rear Goodyear tires blew out, damaging the back part of the race car. Shrapnel caused by the exploding tire entered the drivers cockpit from the rear, fatally injuring Russell. It was flying debris from the explosion, not the crash, that killed Darrell Russell.
He died of severe head injuries even though he was wearing an approved racing helmet (brand unknown). Russell is the first racer to be killed at an NHRA national event since Blaine Johnson, in 1996. Gateway named one of its grandstands "The Darrell Russell Stand" in his memory.
He was interred in the Klein Cemetery in Pinehurst, Texas in Montgomery County. Over 2,000 people attended his funeral.
Immediately after Russell's death, Goodyear released an improved version of the tire that is used on all NHRA top fuel cars. The new tires were a harder compound, to prevent failures, and designed to expand less, to slow the cars down slightly. NHRA required that all top fuel cars switch to the new tires for the next race. NHRA also reduced the maximum nitromethane content of the fuel from 90% to 85%, changed the maximum primary rear wing element angle to 2 degrees positive (measured when dragster is at rest), and required that top fuel cars install a 2mm (0.090-inch) thick titanium shield on the portion of the rollcage that is behind the driver's head. They also required that the rear tires have no less than the minimum manufacturer recommended tire pressure (7psi). To enforce this, Goodyear officials check and adjust the rear tire pressures at the starting line.
|NHRA FullThrottle Drag Racing fatalities