Originally-From: "Robert S. Geiger" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 12) -- Top Fuel driver Don Lampus Jr. fell victim to a rain-shortened qualifying program at the 36th annual Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals and finished the 2000 season with an unthinkable did-not-qualify (DNQ) finish. The disappointing ending knocked Lampus and his ExpressAutoParts.com race team from the Top 10 of the Winston championship points standings. He'll now complete his rookie season in NHRA competition in 11th place.
Lampus and the rest of the assembled pros did have three chances to qualify but the scheduled fourth and final round was cancelled when a persistent rain fell on Pomona Raceway Saturday afternoon and evening. Lampus' best pass in the first three rounds was an off-pace 6.008-second, 140.36-mph lap.
"When I took off my firesuit for the last time this year I never anticipated it would come off like that without being able to make a run," a solemn Lampus said. "I always figured this year would end on a high note, not a DNQ. Now I look back and see all the areas where we could have improved. Then we wouldn't even be in this position. I can't wait for February and a full year with (crew chief) Wayne Dupuy tuning this car.
"The first two runs this weekend were plagued by bad clutch discs. We discovered the problem early Saturday and realize this is what hurt us in Dallas as well. When we figured it out and switched discs, the car was perfect. We were on a big pass in Round 3 and just had simple parts failure do us in. A piston rod let go and it banged the blower. There is no doubt in my mind that we would have qualified way up the ladder if we had one more lap."
The 36-year-old from Dallas still has a couple of chances to complete the season on a high note, although it won't be on the racetrack. Lampus is considered a leading candidate for Winston's Rookie of the Year award and has been named a finalist for the Auto Club of Southern California Road To The Future award. Both of the prestigious awards will be handed out Monday evening at the year-ending Winston Awards ceremony in Hollywood.
"We're excited about the possibilities Monday night but right now we're all feeling a little low," Lampus said. "So much heart and soul went into this year. I feel bad for the guys. Everyone worked so hard and we overcame so much. In some sense, it was a great first year. But right now, it hurts. I can't believe I don't get to play tomorrow."
Same-day elimination round television coverage will be divided into two segments today on ESPN2. First-round action airs from 3-4 p.m. (PT) with the finals running from 7-9 p.m. (PT). A repeat will follow tomorrow from 10 p.m.-12 a.m. (PT).