BURNELL RUSSELL, FATHER OF DARRELL RUSSELL, GETS A RECORD-SETTING NITRO RIDE
Burnell Russell only wanted to understand better what his sons felt from a Top Fuel car.
Saturday, September 7, 2019, Burnell not only felt what his son, the late Darrell Russell, did when he was a passenger on a pass down the drag strip but also made a bit of United States drag racing history in the process.
Burnell, 79, thanks to the Larry Dixon two-seat Top Fuel dragster became the quickest nitro passenger in history at US 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Mich.
Burnell went along for a 3.342-second ride, at 259.82 miles per hour in the eighth-mile, also generating a 5.397, 172 to the quarter-mile with the parachutes out. The opportunity was provided by son Chris Russell, who managed to keep the gift a surprise right up until the time Dixon told the elder Russell he'd be taking a ride just hours earlier.
"Chris is incredible; there's no way I would have had any idea [this was going to happen]," Burnell explained. "When we were coming up here he wouldn't tell me what we were coming up here for. For a long time, I thought we were coming up here to pick up a motorhome he'd purchased. Only yesterday did he tell me that we were going to come up here for a race.
"I was never nervous about the deal ahead of time; I was just excited."
Chris admits he had to lie to his father to keep the secret, and while he hated the "white lies," the look on his dad's face was priceless.
"It was rough, I had to keep the lie going for about six months," Chris admitted. "I wanted it to be a surprise, and I came up with more BS than you can imagine."
Dixon's two-seater ran as part of U.S. 131's 15th annual Funny Car Nationals. There wasn't a whiff of smoke as the specialty dragster made a full pull to the eighth-mile per insurance regulations.
Even to half-track, Burnell experienced the rush of 10,000-plus horsepower.
"As tight as I was buckled in, the force of the car kept trying to lift me up in the seat," Burnell explained.
Burnell was ready for an encore as he unbuckled his belts in the shutdown area.
"If it wouldn't break my son, I'd say let's do it again," Burnell said.
Dixon was all smiles too, as he generated yet another happy customer for his exhibition vehicle.
"The original concept for this car was to give people the opportunity who would never get the opportunity to be in a Top Fuel car," Dixon explained. "I wasn't looking to start a war or anything like that. It was to leave people like [Burnell] with a big grin on their face. We got to do that today.
"That's all I was looking for today. We added another person to the special group of those who have been down the track in a Top Fuel car."