POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 10) -- Racing in his last event as the reigning Winston Rookie of the Year, Top Fuel pilot Don Lampus Jr. proved his mettle once again by earning a spot in the stout elimination field of the 37th annual Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals. Lampus managed a steady pass of 4.654 seconds at 316.82 mph to nail down the 13th slot on the ladder and is poised to race old IHRA rival Doug Herbert in Round 1.
With 22 drivers vying for 16 spots, the competition in qualifying was tough with the final bump position set with a season-low elapsed time of 4.708 seconds at 307.58 mph, meaning drivers had to at least reach that number to continue through to Sunday's action. Racing in just his third event of the season after being sidelined by sponsorship concerns, Lampus was able to run two laps below the cut-off point.
"I never expected to come here and run a good lap like that and still be in the bottom half of the field," Lampus said. "I guess the good news is that we're in and we'll be racing for the title on Sunday. But we all know the odds are slightly against you when you start the day without lane choice. In my mind, and I was just talking to my crew chief Wayne Dupuy about this, a bottom-half starting point just means that you hold nothing back because you have nothing to lose. Wayne agreed so that's our gameplan.
"We're running these last three races to prepare for next year. I'm thrilled with the results we've had. We just wanted to do a little glorified testing really but this team is so intent on winning that we've had some great success already. To have won three rounds in Dallas and Las Vegas and beat one of the guys that could win the championship this year is phenomenal. It speaks volumes about what this group is capable of. Regardless of what happens tomorrow, I'll be smiling.
"It's weird but I feel a little somber about the year ending. I know I only raced three events but I just haven't filled my Nitro fix yet. I'm already dreaming of next February."
Lampus, a 37-year-old from Dallas, has a 2-1 record against Herbert in NHRA competition. Herbert will have lane choice due to his superior elapsed time in qualifying of 4.555 seconds at 325.06 mph but overnight showers could change the track considerably.
There are still five hours of television coverage left for this weekend's 37th annual Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals. Sunday's elimination rounds will air from 7-10 p.m. (ET) on ESPN2 with a repeat showing from 2-4 p.m. (ET) Friday, also on ESPN2.