Lampus returns in style, earns top-half berth DALLAS (Oct. 20) -- Reigning Rookie of the Year driver Don Lampus has returned to NHRA competition in grand style, securing the No. 7 position in the elimination field of the 16th annual O'Reilly...
Lampus returns in style, earns top-half berth
DALLAS (Oct. 20) -- Reigning Rookie of the Year driver Don Lampus has returned to NHRA competition in grand style, securing the No. 7 position in the elimination field of the 16th annual O'Reilly Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec. After not racing for the entire season, Lampus calmly posted a 4.626 at 309.59 mph in his Lampus Racing Top Fuel dragster during the final qualifying session, driving as though he never missed a race.
"Wow, that felt great," Lampus said as he emerged from the cockpit of his dragster after his run of record. "The car was moving around quite a bit at the other end but I knew it was on a good pass so I kept my foot in it as long as I could and we put up a great number. I actually clicked it off at about 1,100 feet because I was getting close to the [retaining] wall so I know we could have gone even quicker. But we're definitely not complaining about getting in the show and earning a top-half spot. That's awesome."
The 37-year-old hometown hero has been sidelined for the entire 2001 campaign as he continues to search for a title sponsor for his award-winning operation. Now, as the season draws to a close, Lampus has elected to use the final three national events as a glorified test-and-tune session in anticipation of a full-time return to the circuit in 2002.
"I think we've just shown what we're capable of," Lampus said. "And this is just our first race back. I really give a lot of credit to my crew chiefs Wayne Dupuy and Chris Cunningham and the rest of the guys for preparing a perfect race car for me. There's been a lot of hard work put in to get us to this point. The exciting thing is I know our best days are ahead of us. We can't wait for tomorrow to get here."
Lampus experienced a little bit of everything in qualifying. He posted a steady 4.786 at 302.01 mph in his first pass, smoked his tires just off the starting line in Round 2, aborted his third pass when his transmission got stuck in reverse after the burnout, before cruising down the strip with his 4.62-second pass at 309 mph in Round 4.
Team Lampus opens tomorrow's elimination action against Rhonda Hartman-Smith, who qualified 10th with a 4.680 at 308.95 mph. Because he qualified higher on the elimination ladder, Lampus will enjoy lane choice over Hartman-Smith.
ESPN2 will provide extensive coverage of the 16th annual O'Reilly Fall Nationals on Sunday. Highlights of the qualifying rounds will be broadcast from noon-1 p.m. (ET) with elimination coverage airing from 4-6 p.m. (ET). A repeat of the elimination-round package will run from 9-10 p.m. (ET) and again at 2-3 p.m. (ET) Tuesday.