Phoenix: Don Lampus preview

Phoenix could be last hurrah for Lampus PHOENIX (Feb. 18) -- Top Fuel driver Don Lampus rides a roller coaster of emotions into Firebird International Raceway for this weekend's 18th annual Checker-Schuck's-Kragen Nationals. The high of a No. 6...

Phoenix could be last hurrah for Lampus

PHOENIX (Feb. 18) -- Top Fuel driver Don Lampus rides a roller coaster of emotions into Firebird International Raceway for this weekend's 18th annual Checker-Schuck's-Kragen Nationals. The high of a No. 6 ranking in the POWERade championship points standings -- the result of a strong showing at the season-opening race in Pomona, Calif., in early February--is off-set by the realization this could be the final ride for Lampus and his Mothers Against Drunk Driving Top Fuel dragster.

The 37-year-old Lampus certainly proved he has what it takes to run with the top teams in the sport's elite Top Fuel bracket. He qualified in the top half of a crowded Pomona field and racked up an elimination-round win on race day to finish the weekend in sixth place. But the continued lack of big-time corporate funding for his MADD-themed Youth Awareness Program has slowed the group's efforts to the point where parking the entire operation for the foreseeable future is a very real prospect.

"We have so many companies interested in helping us spread our message," Lampus said. "And the fact we started strong has been a nice boost. But we have yet to sign any substantial deals to date, which has really pushed us into a corner. We simply can't continue at this rate. It's so disheartening to say but it's true.

"I couldn't be happier with the team and what we've accomplished in such a short amount of time on the race track. I've always said if my crew chief Wayne Dupuy had the funding he could win the POWERade championship and I think we showed what we're truly capable of in Pomona. We just need to get over the financial hurdles."

Lampus is a proven winner. He was named the NHRA's 2000 Rookie of the Year, he won the 1999 International Hot Rod Association's Top Fuel World Championship, and he captured the SCORE Off-Road 1-2 Class World Title in 1996. Yet his dream remains the NHRA POWERade World Championship.

"Our goal was to run as strong as possible for the first few races and hope it generated enough publicity for us to get someone's attention," Lampus said. "I think we've done that to a certain extent already and we plan on raising a few more eyebrows in Phoenix. We'll certainly be going for it. We've got nothing to lose."

The ESPN2 television network will provide five hours of primetime coverage of the 18th annual Checker-Schuck's-Kragen Nationals. Qualifying highlights will be broadcast from 9-11 p.m. (ET), Saturday, with elimination rounds airing from 7-10 p.m. (ET) on Sunday. A repeat showing is scheduled for 3-6 a.m. (ET) on Tuesday, Feb. 26.

-dlr/bg-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Don Lampus