Volume IX, Issue 10, Page 121

Darrell Russell: Broad Smiles, Quarter Miles

As just the third NHRA driver to win in his professional debut and a six-time event champion in three-and-a-half seasons of NHRA Top Fuel competition, Darrell Russell was well on his way to genuine stardom when a racing accident in June 2004 at Gateway International Raceway cut his life short.

NHRA.com Senior Editor Rob Geiger recently authored and self-published Darrell Russell: Broad Smiles, Quarter-Miles to commemorate his close friend, with all proceeds from sales of the book destined for the Drag Racing Association of Women (DRAW), the non-profit organization that helps injured racers and their families.

At just 125 pages with eight pages of color photos in the center and several large black-and-whites throughout, the book’s an easy read. With stories ranging from Russell’s childhood in Houston to his burgeoning racing career in a series of family-owned dragsters to landing a prized position as Joe Amato’s hand-picked shoe, it lovingly traces Russell’s career from beginning to tragic end. But Geiger’s book not only memorializes his fallen friend, it provides behind-the-scenes insight to life—and death—on drag racing’s biggest stage. The chapters dealing with the fatal accident and its immediate aftermath are particularly gripping and chilling in revealing the human side of what most people experienced only through TV and computer screens.

To his credit, Geiger doesn’t sugar coat his own conflicting emotions, either. Consider this passage describing his feelings about Kenny Bernstein, who accompanied him to the hospital that fateful day in St. Louis: “To be honest, I didn’t like Kenny much back then. I thought he was an unhappy guy who had the world by the tail but didn’t know how to enjoy it. I saw him as a power-monger, a big fish in a small pond, wielding influence over his little world. But the truth is I didn’t know him. Kenny is now one of my closest friends and someone I admire very much.” Strong stuff.

I get the impression that writing this book wasn’t just an idea Geiger had to help DRAW make some money; I suspect it wasn’t even written just to memorialize his friend. Reading certain chapters and passages it feels like something Geiger had to write in order to make sense of the tragedy for himself, a means to move on and do some good in the process, too.  

Clearly a labor of love, Darrell Russell: Broad Smiles, Quarter-Miles is a must-have item for Darrell Russell fans and would be a welcome addition to any drag racing fan’s library. It is available exclusively through Jegs.com for $24.95, again, with all proceeds going to DRAW.

Click here to purchase this book. 

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