With eyes on the future, Lampus' season ends in Round 1

POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 11) -- Don Lampus Jr.'s run at the season-ending 37th annual Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals ended abruptly in the day's opening round with a loss to friendly rival Doug Herbert. Lampus' 6,000-horsepower machine over-powered Pomona Raceway causing him to smoke his tires just 60 feet into his run, basically handing the win to Herbert, who posted a beatable 4.649 at 308.57 mph.

The 37-year-old Lampus had posted a 4.654-second lap at 316.82 mph in qualifying, which yielded the advantage of lane choice in today's race to Herbert, who qualified with a 4.555 at 325.06 mph. The lane choice edge proved to be the difference as Lampus Racing crew chief Wayne Dupuy had to push the limits of his tune-up to make up the difference. In the end, the team pushed too hard and the track just couldn't hold the power Lampus' car generated.

Lampus had the jump at the lights with a .473-second reaction time to Herbert's .490-second start, but his red, white, and blue machine was soon lost in a cloud of smoke, allowing Herbert to blow by for the win. Herbert actually detonated his powerplant at the top end but he was too far ahead for a retiring Lampus to catch.

"It was over when I smoked 'em," Lampus said. "I watched him for a second and I was ready to get back on it if I had a chance but by the time he was at half-track I knew my day was done. I congratulate Doug and wish him luck the rest of the day.

"I'm very proud of my team and what we've accomplished in the last three races. Honestly, we came back early to get ready for next year but our competitive juices started flowing and we switched to race mode without even thinking about it. We haven't done bad for running out of our own pocket. A big thanks to dad and the R.I. Lampus Company."

Lampus is on the brink of announcing a multiple-year deal. He missed most of this year after his former sponsor suddenly dropped his funding at the beginning of the season, forcing him to park his car and search for a replacement deal.

"I'm very disappointed that we haven't been able to run this year until these last three races," Lampus said. "But I couldn't be happier about the future of this race team. We have signed a deal but we're waiting to make a formal announcement until the funding is completely in place. I can tell you this; we will be running for the title next year.

"Our brightest days are ahead of us. It was great winning the IHRA championship in 1999 and it was so cool to be named Winston Rookie of the Year last season. But the crew we have now and the backing we're about to announce will take us to a level where we can win every race and be in the running for the world championship."

The elimination rounds of the 37th annual Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals will be broadcast today from 7-10 p.m. (ET) on ESPN2 with a repeat showing from 2-4 p.m. (ET) Friday, also on ESPN2.