Dallas: Don Lampus learning life in NHRA is tough

DALLAS (May 28) -- ExpressAutoParts.com Top Fuel driver Don Lampus is beginning to realize what it takes to be successful at the top level of drag racing. The 35-year-old pro from nearby Allen was eliminated in the first round of the fourth ...

DALLAS (May 28) -- ExpressAutoParts.com Top Fuel driver Don Lampus is beginning to realize what it takes to be successful at the top level of drag racing. The 35-year-old pro from nearby Allen was eliminated in the first round of the fourth annual NHRA Castrol Nationals by two-time Winston champion Gary Scelzi. The disappointing finish marks the third race in a row that Lampus has been dismissed in Round 1, a fact that doesn't sit well with the reigning IHRA champion.

"I feel bad for the team," Lampus said. "And, to be perfectly honest, I'm embarrassed by my performance. It's tough over here (in the NHRA). I feel like we've been standing in place for the last three races. I'm just not used to it and I really don't want to get used to this feeling. We knew it would be tough over here but it's even tougher than we thought."

Lampus won four of 10 races on the IHRA schedule last year, including three in a row, and easily clinched the 1999 Top Fuel championship. What was impressive is that last season was his first full year behind the wheel of a 320-mph, 6,000-horsepower machine. Lampus only ran a limited schedule in his rookie year of 1998 and, prior to that, competed in the SCORE off-road series, where he won the 1996 championship.

"If you run a 4.7-second lap every time out like we do," Lampus said, "then you win the IHRA championship easily. But over here a 4.7-second car is in the bottom half of the bracket. We need to get to a place where we can run mid-4.6s consistently. Then we'll be able to compete with the more established teams. We're just not there yet."

The ExpressAutoParts.com Racing team took a big step forward this weekend when they unveiled a brand-new Brad Hadman chassis. The team took delivery of the car Wednesday and elected to run it this weekend even though they had no data. The team's best pass of the event was a partially shut-off 5.847 at 158.33 mph.

"With only 14 cars entered for this event we decided to run the new car and take our chances," Lampus said. "The other car had seen better days and we think this one, when we get it dialed in, will take us to the next level. I just wish we could have done more this weekend. I really want to pat the team on the back for getting this thing ready in one day. It was a miracle job as far as I'm concerned. I just need to reward them with some success.

"I admit our confidence is down a little. We need to back the power down a little for Chicago and get a bunch of full laps in the books. Then we can start to pick it up again. I'm happy we maintained our spot in the top 10 but it's time to win some rounds. I know we'll get there. We just have to be patient and work as hard as we can to get better."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Gary Scelzi , Don Lampus