Despite numerous challenges, Hampton finishes third in thrilling Infiniti Pro Season finale Saturday at Texas.
FORT WORTH, Texas, Sept. 14 - After Ryan Hampton lost an engine in the warm-up session Saturday morning at Texas Motor Speedway, he almost didn't get to start the Infiniti Pro Series season finale at Texas Motor Speedway Saturday afternoon.
The Conti/Genoa/Frost Racing team installed the only replacement engine on the grounds in only two hours, however, and somehow Hampton made it out to the grid to take the green flag.
He had to start way back in the field because of engine problems in qualifying.
When the race got going he didn't have the fastest car, either.
However, none of those things stopped the young charger from Phoenix from passing more cars than any other driver and finishing third in the BG Products 100 season finale.
A dozen cars were running on the lead lap at the checkered. They all finished within 1 second of the winner and the series' first champion, A.J. Foyt IV.
Hampton was just 0.2801 of a second behind Foyt and only 0.0379 of a second behind the second-place finisher, Cory Witherill. Gary Peterson crossed the line in fourth, just 0.0880 of a second behind Hampton, while Ed Carpenter was right on Peterson's rear wing.
Hampton started 12th in the field of 14 after suffering from engine problems in qualifying, but by advancing nine positions he passed more cars than any other driver in the race.
Foyt led all but one of the 67 laps in a race that was slowed by three cautions for 16 laps.
On the final yellow, which was to inspect the track when a liquid was seen coming from Matt Beardsley's car, Hampton was in fifth place behind Foyt, Arie Luyendyk Jr., Witherill and Marty Roth. The restart occurred on lap 42 and that's when Hampton made his most dramatic move, passing both Roth and Luyendyk on lap 45 to nail down third.
He had to give it everything he had to stay in that spot, successfully defending that position despite intense pressure from Peterson.
"I didn't have anything for A.J. or Cory, and after the problems we had all weekend, I was pretty much happy to get third," an elated Hampton said after the race.
"It was a very, very long weekend for us," he related. "We started out the weekend OK, but we didn't have the horsepower we wanted. We qualified 12th; it seems if we aren't first, we're 12th.
"Then in the warm-up session this morning we lost an engine. The crew was in an absolute thrash to get the one engine Walkinshaw had to make the grid.
"Then right on the pace lap, the water temperatures started to run hot.
"In the race I tried to use my head and just move up when I could. I had a little bit of contact with Aaron Fike and he ended up spinning; it wasn't anything intentional on my part, that's for sure. The guys ahead of us checked up and it was just a racing incident.
"Anyway, it didn't really hurt my car at all," he continued.
"Then a yellow came out when somebody had engine problems. I had a really good restart and moved up to third."
Hampton's worries weren't over, however.
"Then the water and oil temperatures both went way up too high. I kept saying on the radio, 'I hope this thing makes it.' I didn't have anything for anybody at the end. Basically it was a long line of cars at the end because nobody wanted to get out of line and risk losing a position."
Hampton said he has a lot of people to thank after such a stirring finish.
"I have to thank my entire crew for this one; I never saw a team thrash like that," he said. "They did a phenomenal job in getting an engine in the car and out on the grid within two hours. Everybody on the team was elated when the car crossed the finish line; I've never seen that much elation. Angelo Ferro did a great job and Dave Conti gave me an awesome, awesome race car. Garlon Frost, Steve Fried and just everybody on the team did a fabulous job. My spotter, Kevin Krauss, did an outstanding job and I have to thank him too.
"And my Firestone tires were great; I can't say enough about them either," he continued.
"This race we came from a dismal start to a wonderful finish," he concluded. "Now hopefully we'll be able to use this momentum to advance into the IRL, but I don't know if we'll have the funding to do that yet or not. All I know right now is that this finish was a very, very good way to end the season."
Hampton and everyone else can relive it when it airs on ESPN2 at 6 p.m. EDT Sept. 30.