Columbus: Don Lampus ready for summer charge

COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 8) -- NHRA rookie driver Don Lampus certainly knows how to ride a hot streak. After all, he won three races in a row and four races overall last season to capture the IHRA Top Fuel championship in just his first year behind...

COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 8) -- NHRA rookie driver Don Lampus certainly knows how to ride a hot streak. After all, he won three races in a row and four races overall last season to capture the IHRA Top Fuel championship in just his first year behind the wheel of his 315-mph ExpressAutoParts.com Top Fuel Dragster. Prior to that, Lampus recorded top finishes in the Baja 500 and Baja 1000, and completed all 2,600 miles of the SCORE off-road circuit en route to capturing the 1996 world title.

Now, fresh off his best outing of the 2000 season, Lampus enters the 36th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals at National Trail Raceway (June 15-18) hoping to parlay his current streak of successful qualifying efforts and career-best performances into his first serious charge at an NHRA national event title.

"I firmly believe we have all the pieces in place to win an event at some point this season," said Lampus, a 35-year-old from Dallas. "We have a new car that is working great, I have one of the best crews in the business, and I think I'm doing a pretty good job of driving. I like our chances right now. Confidence is high on the ExpressAutoParts.com team."

Lampus has good reason to be so optimistic. His ExpressAutoParts.com team recently switched to the latest-generation 2000 Hadman chassis, which is favored by most of the NHRA's top teams, and within a race the crew had found a handle on the tune-up. At the tour's last stop in Chicago, Lampus used his newest weapon to down five-time champion Joe Amato on race day and move into ninth place in the championship points standings.

"The performance we had in Chicago leads me to think we're going to have a great weekend in Columbus," Lampus said. "We hit a career-high speed with this new car and I remember thinking, 'That's more like it.' What we need to do is qualify in the top half of the field. That way we'll have lane choice on race day and then our chances of going rounds increases by a bunch. And let's face it, if you're one of the top eight cars, you're pretty good. We're also chasing Doug Herbert in the points (42 behind) and I'd like to reel him in a bit.

"This will also be a special weekend for me personally because I have several old buddies from high school (Fox Chapel in Pittsburgh) driving over to spend the weekend with us. I'm going to have to show them what NHRA drag racing is all about."

ESPN2 will broadcast several hours of the Columbus event. Qualifying highlights will air from 7:30-9:30 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, June 17. Same-day race coverage will start with first-round action from 1:30-2:30pm (ET) and semifinal and final-round action from 5-7 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, June 18. A rebroadcast of the elimination rounds will air later that day from 9:30-11:30 p.m. (ET) and again from 2:30-3:30 a.m. (ET) on Friday, June 23.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Don Lampus