Brainerd: Loss leaves Lampus feeling low

BRAINERD, Minn. (August 20) – The most promising weekend of Don Lampus’ rookie campaign in NHRA competition ended in frustration for his entire ExpressAutoParts.com Top Fuel team. After qualifying a career-high fifth on the elimination ladder...

BRAINERD, Minn. (August 20) – The most promising weekend of Don Lampus’ rookie campaign in NHRA competition ended in frustration for his entire ExpressAutoParts.com Top Fuel team. After qualifying a career-high fifth on the elimination ladder of the 19th annual Colonel’s Truck Accessories Nationals with a season-best lap of 4.662 seconds at 313.80 mph, Lampus encountered engine trouble in the opening round and could only watch as his opponent rode away for a huge upset win.

The first-round run didn’t finish the way Lampus had hoped but it was an exciting side-by-side race against 20-year-old Australian champ Andrew Cowin. The 36-year-old Lampus started with a huge .063-second advantage when he left Cowin at the starting line by a .473 to .536 margin. But 150 feet into the run the ExpressAutoParts.com dragster dropped a cylinder and began to labor, allowing Cowin to rapidly catch up. At the finish line, Cowin crossed in 4.713 seconds and 311.77 mph ahead of Lampus’ 4.813-second, 306.60-mph pass. The underdog’s victory came by .037 seconds, or about 30 feet.

“Of all the things we were expecting to accomplish today, losing in the first-round wasn’t even a consideration,” Lampus said. “We had a chance to move up a couple of spots in the points and the way we had run in qualifying -- with our best lap ever under the 90-percent nitro rules -- we were all expecting to go some rounds. We knew what the track would hold and we knew what the car wanted, it just wasn’t meant to be I guess.

“What a terrible day for all of us. The guys did an outstanding job all weekend and I know they wanted to make some noise today as much as I did. Our goals have really changed since the start of the year; we expect to go rounds now and when we don’t, it really hurts.”

It was an odd weekend from the start for Lampus. For the first time in his driving career his parents were unable to attend the race. He also had to scramble to find a fill-in crew chief as his normal tuner, Mike McLaughlin, remained at home on doctor’s orders.

“I’ve felt weird all along,” said Lampus. “Mom and Dad have a way of calming me down because they take care of all the details of running the team. I was also worried about Mike. He’s feeling fine and he tuned the car by phone and us e-mailing him the info after each run, but it was a strange deal for all of us. Still, Wayne Dupuy did a great job for us filling in at the last minute and I continue to value his friendship and support. He’s one heck of a crew chief.”

Although he didn’t gain any ground in the Winston championship points standings, Lampus did remain in 10th place, pushing his number of races in the Winston Top 10 to 12 out of 15 contested so far this season. He is also the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year.

Same-day television coverage of the 19th annual Colonel’s Truck Accessories National’s elimination rounds will air today from 4:30-6 p.m. (ET and PT) on TNN.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Don Lampus