Chicago: New car has Lampus dreaming big

CHICAGO (May 31) -- Top Fuel driver Don Lampus and the entire ExpressAutoParts.com Racing team arrive at the state-of-the-art Route 66 Raceway in the Chicago suburb of Joliet intent on moving up in the Winston championship points standings. A ...

CHICAGO (May 31) -- Top Fuel driver Don Lampus and the entire ExpressAutoParts.com Racing team arrive at the state-of-the-art Route 66 Raceway in the Chicago suburb of Joliet intent on moving up in the Winston championship points standings. A strong showing at this weekend's third annual Prestone Route 66 Nationals could be the elixir that lifts this team to new heights in the Windy City.

Lampus, a 35-year-old from Dallas, is the defending IHRA Top Fuel World Champion but is considered a rookie in the NHRA ranks. The 2000 season marks just his second year of professional competition. Still, the former off-road champ has successfully qualified for all nine events on the schedule and has been a part of the top 10 for six races including the last five in a row, which is no small feat considering the level of competition in the NHRA.

"We're getting there," Lampus said. "The teams competing in the NHRA are the best in the world. The have the best mechanics and crew chiefs available. There are no free passes or easy rounds here. I'm very proud of the way this ExpressAutoParts.com team has made the transition from the IHRA to the NHRA. We're holding our ground against these other crews and in some cases doing better than teams that have been around for a long time.

"After winning the IHRA title last year we decided to test ourselves against the best. We knew that coming to the NHRA was a big step and that there would be times when we would struggle. But the team wanted to make it happen and I think we're well on our way to becoming a force at this level. Sometimes you just have to remember that it takes time."

The ExpressAutoParts.com team added to its performance expectations exponentially at the last race in Dallas when they unveiled a brand-new Brad Hadman-built 2000 series chassis. The lighter frame and it's superior handling capabilities have already lifted established pros like two-time champion Gary Scelzi and five-time champ Kenny Bernstein to new levels of performance. The two decorated pros have driven their Hadman cars to four wins and five Race Day pole positions already this season.

"We've seen what these cars can do," Lampus said. "It's so exciting for us to be running a car that's a twin to Gary and Kenny's cars. Now it's up to me as a driver to get our car down the track under full power, stay in the groove, and post some big numbers. Even when the car does something wrong, I need to be able to recognize what's happened and relay the experience to my crew and crew chief. I know this will be a very competitive car. Once we get the combo down, we'll be flying. It'd be great to pull it off in Chicago."

ESPN2 will broadcast four hours of the Prestone Route 66 Nationals this weekend. Qualifying highlights will air from 10 p.m.-midnight ET (5-7 p.m. PT) Saturday and same-day elimination round coverage will be broadcast from 5-7 p.m. ET (2-4 p.m. PT) Sunday. A rebroadcast of the elimination rounds will air from 4-6 a.m. ET (1-3 a.m. PT) Tuesday.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kenny Bernstein , Gary Scelzi , Don Lampus