Las Vegas Don Lampus Jr; Lady Luck elusive

LAS VEGAS (April 9) -- The twists of luck that have made this city famous for years were in effect today at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the ExpressAutoParts.com Top Fuel team of Don Lampus Jr. Competing at the inaugural NHRA SummitRacing.com ...

LAS VEGAS (April 9) -- The twists of luck that have made this city famous for years were in effect today at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the ExpressAutoParts.com Top Fuel team of Don Lampus Jr. Competing at the inaugural NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals, the reigning IHRA champion suffered an opening-round defeat that caused him to slip out of the Winston top 10 championship standings by one point.

For the third time in four races, Lampus had to face a Winston champion in Round 1. This time around it was two-time champ Gary Scelzi of Team Winston, who has gotten the better of Lampus in all three of their career meetings.

The 35-year-old Lampus, who resides in Dallas, did make Scelzi work for his win. The two left the starting line together and stayed side by side for several hundred feet before Scelzi pulled away for the win. At the lights it was Scelzi posting a 4.676-second lap at 310.13 mph in front of Lampus' 4.785-second, 299.86-mph pass.

"We were racing for awhile," Lampus said. "I saw him creep ahead at half-track and I started hoping he would throw a belt or lose traction so that I could pass him. But he just slowly pulled away. He had me by half a length at the finish line. Not many people beat him. That's why he's won the championship before. I'll be proud if I can ever get it done.

"I'm starting to hate this losing in the first round. It hardly ever happened to us in the IHRA. We sure can't make a habit out of this. It's disappointing to fall out of the top 10 but we're only a point out so we can jump back into the fight very quickly. Now we have a real obvious goal to shoot for in Houston next weekend."

Lampus started Race Day in 13th place on the elimination ladder. He had successfully qualified for the event with a steady 4.797-second pass at 305.77 mph, which he recorded on Friday evening. This race marked the first time in competition that the ExpressAutoParts.com team used the new five-disc clutch system that is becoming the norm in the nitro-powered classes.

"It appears we already have a great handle on this new clutch," Lampus said. "Our crew chief Mike McLaughlin tells me this stuff will have us screaming in the next few races. The car was very consistent, especially when you consider that this was our first five passes with the new equipment. Things will definitely get better in a hurry."

Same-day elimination round coverage of the Inaugural SummitRacing.com Nationals will be aired today from 10:30 p.m. to midnight (ET and PT) on TNN.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Gary Scelzi , Mike McLaughlin , Don Lampus