June 28, 2004 by

Darrell Russell

38 comments

Categories: Sports

drussell.jpgDrag racer Darrell Russell had just crossed the finish line in the second round of eliminations at the Sears Craftsman NHRA Nationals on June 27 when his car spun out of control and began to fall apart.
Going 300 mph on the Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill., Russell deployed his parachute in order to slow down. The 2,200-pound dragster rolled to a stop near the guard wall, then burst into flames.
Russell was unconscious when he was removed from the wreckage and loaded onto a backboard. A helicopter transferred him to St. Louis University Medical Center, but he died two hours later. He was 35.
Before becoming a professional driver, the Hockley, Texas native was a computer technician. He also raised mini-donkeys with his wife and served as the road manager for country music singer Clay Walker. In 2001, Russell decided to follow his dream and race full-time.
He made a stunning debut that year, becoming the third driver in National Hot Rod Association history to win his first starting event. Russell was named the 2001 NHRA rookie of the year, and went on to achieve six Top Fuel victories, including the Pontiac Excitement Nationals two weeks ago.

38 Responses to Darrell Russell

  1. NHRA #64925

    THE FAMILY OF DRAGRACERS ALL OVER THE WORLD LOST A GREAT DRIVER THIS WEEK. HE WAS A PERFECT EXAMPLE OF WHAT YOU CAN DO IF YOU FOLLOW YOUR PASSION! THANKS TO JOE AMATO FOR ALL YOU DID TO HELP HIM TO REACH FOR HIS DREAMS. REST IN PEACE MY DEAR FRIEND. WE WILL ALL MISS YOU AT EVERY RACE.
    DENVER, CO

  2. Chicago, IL

    Darrell Russell was a great driver and will be remembered by all. My heart goes out to all of his family and friends. He will remain with us all at future races. God Bless the Russell family.

  3. Teresa Settles

    Last year at the Strip in Las Vegas Darrell Russell signed my jacket. It was late on Friday after qualifying and he was in a great mood and also signed an autograph for my 7 year old son. I will alwys remeber that. He was so polite and in no hurry to rush his fans away. My heart goes out to his family.

  4. Debi

    We have had the pleasure of meeting Darrell at the races in Las Vegas. Always so polite and great with the fans. I liked him the first time I saw him on NHRA in his rookie year. Just an all around “Good Guy” The world has lost a “Stellar” Racer and great human being.
    Rest Peacefully Darrell
    Your fanz in Vegas!

  5. Eddie Goodnight

    Being a Texan myself,losing Darrell is like
    losing a family member.
    I,ve seen him & met him in Ennis,Tx. when
    NHRA comes to Texas.He was a fine and very nice&
    polite young man.
    I hold his family up in prayer,and pray he’s
    resting in the arms of “JESUS” now.
    “REST IN PEASE” DARRELL ” May “GOD” bless the
    “Russell Family”.
    A FAN FROM “HOME”

  6. Ryan Mcelreath

    Darrell Was a Great man im only 15 years old but I have to been to the gator nationals since i was 6. Darrell was one of my favorites. He was always willing to give and autograph. (Never Failed God Bles the Russell Family. He is under the wing of “JESUS” Now. I will be praying for his family and I hope everyone does the same. God Bless To All
    Ryan

  7. rael

    I never met him. but i do watch all the races i can on TV. these guy’s….. who drive 300 mph bullits, are the greatest sports figures there are. they are the closest, tightknit family oriented people i’ve ever seen. in NHRA/IHRA/NASCAR/IHBA , i see racers helping racers. i see drivers take the time with fans. especially the little ones. darrell russell was (is) one of these drivers. always a great interview. always a cool guy!!! to the family….a hug from a fan. rest in peace BRO !

  8. Jim

    We had the honor of meeting Darrell Russell in Pamona,Ca. He extened his hand with a hand shake and half an hour later we were like friends. Theres just no words in the world that can describe how we feel about losing Darrell, but I know one thing Darrell is touching the lives of others there in heaven just like he did down here. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Russell family may god bless each and everyone of you. Rest in peace our friend. The Loury Family

  9. Joe Shannon

    May God have His hand on the hearts of the Russell family. Peace and comfort can only be found in Christ in times like this.
    Humbly,
    Joe W. Shannon

  10. Gregory Stringfield

    To the Russell family, be encouraged our prayers and thoughts are with you.
    I only knew him as he spoke on TV but I believe he was a gem for above price. He had a wide smile and a glow that shined about him. He’ll be missed
    God Bless you and all those he touched
    Rev: Gregory Stringfield

  11. kenny Smale

    I have follow the Amato Racing Team for years now,but when Darrell came on board it was a blessing for Joe. I for one will miss his smile and polite way when he talked to anyone. God bless you Darrell and your family also,rest in peace .
    Fellow Dragracer,
    Kenny Smale

  12. Denny

    I did not know Darrell personally, but just to see him in the media it seems there was a bright light that showed about him. Always willing to give his love unconditionaly, Always willing to sacrafice. As a song writer once wrote ” Under his wings ” it sure did seem that Darrell was living a life under the fathers wings. My prayers are with the Russell family during this untimely loss. May God Bless You

  13. phillip wilms

    Darrell was tthe best example of dragracing his example will be missed . as the sport has lost a very important person and a very nice person. may you rest in peace darrell you deserve the best. God Bless
    a Fan

  14. BIR Pat

    Brainerd International Raceway, just north of Mpls/St. Paul MN. will be waitng as usual for the Joe Amato racing team. This time though they will have the angels and Darrell Russell guiding them down the track at break neck speeds.In heaven you know there is NO “SPEED LIMIT”. We in MN. will be waiting for your team Darrell, as you wait for ours! God bless the Russell’s, the Amato’s and all who he has touched over his brief but successful career. Campers in the “ZOO” will be waiting for you
    DANGER
    LOW FLYING AIRCRAFT
    In our prayers,sincerely, Pat Vos

  15. Charlie Book

    I have been a big drag racing fan for over 20 plus years, and I have never seen anybody nicer than Darrel. He always had that great smile on his face, something that I will miss. Racing for Joe was the thing that made Darrel happy. I will miss this smile. God Bless you but someday I will see that smile again.

  16. Carrie & Steve

    Darrell we will miss you, but we will remember that you will always be there, in every driver, crew cheif, crew man, team owner, sponsor and fan,. Gods speed you are forever in out hearts. Until we see you again.

  17. J Day and Max

    Just found this site by mistake, and decided to share this,
    Mostly because I need to so I don’t break down again.
    My son and I live in San Jose, California,
    (home of the late, great “JJ”, the king of them all, there is not a September that goes by that I don’t think of him…)
    But back to this,
    For the first time in 14 years I could sneak off and take that vacation, with my now 14 year old son, to the Lake of the Ozarks, that he has gone on every year for the last 10 by him self, but my son, (his name is Max by the way) and I where going to piss everybody off and slide off to the races in St. Louis on Sunday, it was only a jog down the road, to see and surprise his friend, a current T/F pilot, while we were planning our escape to the races he had mentioned more than once how much he was looking forward with great anticipation to seeing his friend and just being there, with the exception of trips to Pomona a few times,(where Im glad to say he met CJ Pappy Hart) because of his friend again, this was the first road trip he has been on.
    Im so glad we made it,
    and would have done anything not to have gone.
    I knew it when I saw it,
    and could’nt answer my son when he asked,
    except to tell him it wasn’t good, the longer it took the helo to lift off the more I was sure, and still I couldn’t tell him.
    He watched me cry that Saturday night, seven years ago, when the news blurted out in my living room telling me that Blaine had left us,
    I comforted him the night that his friend had his tumble, worked the phones all night till I got a hold of someone who could tell me what was up, I told my son his guy was ok,
    just a broken bone,
    that night was hard.
    But nothing compared to what was suppose to be a special trip to surprise his friend and wife. We sat in the hospitality suite as I tried to figure out how to tell him, I watched Scott explain the trajectory to someone, and I knew, I watched the various crew members of other cars go by, as the Amato pit was just 2 or 3 trailers away, with tears in there eyes as they left,and I didn’t know how to tell him that Darrell was gone. He loves this sport, as we all do, and we never think of this part of it, and not at 14,
    but it happens…
    and I just didn’t know how to tell him.
    I waited as long as I could, the only TV with ESPN on it seemed to be at the hospitality trailer we where at, and it had just started the first round of coverage as the 3rd round call came out at Madision. We came back after the round was done, and just to be sure I asked the team manager, and before the tables started filling up with crew members of quite a few teams to watch the ESPN coverage of the 2nd round, I had to tell my little guy Darrell was gone, he asked me what that meant, and I had to tell him again, that he just didn’t make it, something I had tried to hint at several times for what had been now 2 and a half hours.
    I didn’t know Darrell, and neither did my son, I have known many who have moved on, and to all of us, whether we live next door to them or read about the in ND when we lose anyone we ALL lose someone.
    Im glad my son and I made the trip,
    I wish I had never thought of it!
    Im glad we saw Darrell’s last pass,
    I really wish it wasn’t…

  18. BOBBIJO VANORMAN

    I WANTED TO SAY, HE WAS THE BEST. AND WHEN I HEARD OF THE NEWS ALL I DID WAS SIT AND CRY. THINKING I’LL NEVER SEE HIM RACE AGAIN. I FEEL SO SORRY FOR HIS WIFE JULIE, SHE HAS A BIGGER LOST. BUT I THINK WE ALL LOST A BIG PART OF US THAT DAY. I WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER HE WAS A GREAT GUY. MOST RACER WHEN THEY END UP BEING BIG SHOTS DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THE FANS. DARRELL, WAS NEVER LIKE THAT. AND I KNOW MY HUSBAND AND SON WILL MISS HIM ALOT. GOD BLESS THE RUSSELL FAMILY AND MY PRAYERS ARE WITH HIS WIFE JULIE.

  19. Ted K

    It’s hard to believe that someone you’ve never met could touch people like Darrell Russell. Our deepest condolences to his wife, Julie, his family and all the NHRA racing families. May he rest in peace.

  20. J and T Taylor

    My husband and I had the golden chance to finally be able to attend an NRHA Race. We went out west to Arizona (from NC) to visit our dear friends, also HUGE NHRA fans. We had the best weekend of our lives. We met all of our favorite racers, we love every minute of it. We also had the chance to meet Darrell Russell, who made such an impression on us. I recall seeing our friend Janet snapping a picture of Darrell and my husband Jerry. I recall Darrell’s smile. I recall how he was talking with Jerry as if Jerry was an old friend. I recall Jerry saying “Hey come here” and waved me over to meet Darrell. Darrell extended his hand out to shake mine. I thought that was so sweet. I recall how nice that Darrell was and how genuine he was to everyone. When we left, he shook Jerry’s hand and had a smile big as the sky. I remember that and always will. He loved his fans. Fans did not bug him, Fans made him smile. Darrell was a gem. He was REAL. He treated his fans like like old friends. We have a beautiful picture of Darrell with my husband. In fact, that picture is the screen saver on my husbands computer. We both LOVED Darrell. His death has broke our hearts into 1000 pieces. We don’t even know what to say. It just does not seem possible that he is gone but he is. God Bless Julie and his family. God bless Joe Amato and the team that supported Darrell. More NHRA Racers should try to be as sincere and real as Darrell. Maybe the impact Darrell had on so many lives will be seen in future races. He was truly a kind soul. NHRA will never be the same without him and I think John Force said it perfectly. “Hope God sends us another home run like Darrell”…..
    But as we all know, people like Darrell are rare.
    Thank you Lord…for letting us have the chance to meet such a beautiful soul, even if only for one time, it was enough to touch us the rest of our lives.
    Sincerely
    The Taylors in NC

  21. ROBERT HARWELL

    Just a couple of months ago,now seems like eons ago… Darrell was in Louisiana to make a few passes at No Problem raceway park for the renewed Cajun Nationals. The first T/F side by Side race in over 20 years.and ran a staggering 4.69 et on a track that a T/F car has never been down before.Darrell spent the whole weekend speaking to fans who for the most part have never seen, or heard a fuel car before. when asked if he was having fun, his reply was ” this is probably as much fun as winning the US Nationals” to us: larger than life, YES. to him: better than anyone else, never.Maybe I’m just being selfish having the privelge of attending many national events, and meeting him on several occasions, but God the hole in my heart is still hurting like hell…
    Rest in peace, smiley…

  22. BRUCE LARSEN

    DARRELL RUSSELL WAS TRUELY A CLASS ACT. HIS UPBEAT PERSONALITY AND SMILE AFFECTED EVERYONE.I WATCHED IN HORROR AS HIS TOP FUELER WENT OUT OF CONTROL AND HOPED HE WOULD MAKE IT OUT ALIVE. TO HIS WIFE JULIE AND MOM, DAD, FAMILY AND FRIENDS… MY DEEPEST SYMPATHY, YOU ARE IN MY PRAYERS… REST IN PEACE DARRELL
    BRUCE LARSEN

  23. Ashleigh Dawon

    I am deeply saddened by this, i ddi not know the guy but it feels like i have lost a family member. My thoughts Are with Darrells Family

  24. Jason

    This is something that we all hate to happen. We have lost a true racer, someone who lived for the sport and gave us all a show everytime he performed. He will be missed deeply, and my thoughts and prayers go out to the family and all his friends.

  25. Don Gaston

    I feel sorry for those not fortunate enough to be drag race fans. What an awesome sport with truely special stars at the fore-front. It is tradgic to be slapped in the face, every so often, when the reality of what these hero’s face when doing what they love rears it’s ugly head. I had the pleasure of having my hand shook and picture taken with Darrell last year in Sanoma, we had never met, but after about 5 seconds it was like we were old friends. I just wish there were more people in the world like him.

  26. JUAN ROMERO

    mis mas sinceras condolencias a la familia russell por tan irreparable perdida
    recuerden que el sigue vivo en nustras mentes
    descanse en paz este gran piloto
    sinceramente
    juan romero

  27. Destiny

    Darrell’s true love became ended. Then Anita, my friend and Gary Stewart fan said “Darrell, my man dies.”
    It broke my heart for Darrell.
    Thanks,
    Destiny

  28. Audree

    Darrell’s love a racing ended. But just like some of the other drivers said “he died happy because he was doing what he loved”. I seen Darrell race at Topeka, KS and when I seen him run I look at my parents and said that is my man. He was soo awesome. I will never forget him. I cried and cried for hours after I heard that he died that weekend. YOU ARE THE BEST DARRELL. To his family and friends just remember that he is always with you. God bless you all and take care of yourself.
    LOVE,
    AUDREE

  29. Edward Carrillo

    Darrell Russell was like a brother to me. I will always miss you and have you in my heart. I cry each and every day for you guy. I still to this day wonder why you did the things you did for me. I think god for giving me a friend like you. Friends I had for 25 years never did what you did in the 3 1/2 years that I knew you. It is very tragic what happen to my buddy but I will try my best to move on in life. As I look up in the sky every day I always tell Darrell your in my heart and in my soul. I LOVE YOU DARRELL God bless you, you will be missed.
    love Fast Eddie

  30. june russell curry

    I was Darrell’s only aunt. his father Burnell is my brother.I loved Darrell dearly. I shall miss him every day of my life. i wonder if god had a reason. it is so hard to understand. darrell was killed on my birthday, june 27, 2004. i am
    living for the day when i will see him again some day. rest in peace my sweetheart. your Aunt JUNE. SANTA FE, TEXAS.

  31. T

    I just want to say that I miss you dearly Darrell. What a wonderful good hearted man you were. May God bless your wife and family. It’s sad to think what could’ve been, but God had a different plan. You will always be in my heart. Thank you for all of the memories and for being a positive example as one who will alway do the right thing. You are very loved and extremely missed. ‘Til I see you on the other side.
    Loved you, T

  32. jason schmidt

    i rember watching darrell when he and his family ran alchahol dragsters.since i only live twenty minutes from houston raceway park i seen a lot of passes.when i heard of darrell’s death it saddend me knowing that dragracing lost a great figure.he was an inspiration to a lot of local racers and he will be missed always.may there be nitro in heaven.rest in peace darrell

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