Englishtown: Engine explosion dooms Lampus

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (Sept. 9) -- NHRA newcomer Don Lampus had a golden opportunity to further his Rookie of the Year campaign during today's first round match-up with reigning Winston champ Tony Schumacher. But some unexpected parts failure during...

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (Sept. 9) -- NHRA newcomer Don Lampus had a golden opportunity to further his Rookie of the Year campaign during today's first round match-up with reigning Winston champ Tony Schumacher. But some unexpected parts failure during the run resulted in a huge explosion in the ExpressAutoParts.com dragster's powerplant, allowing a trailing and tire-smoking Schumacher to slip by for the win.

Lampus blasted off the starting line with a huge .476 to .554-second advantage and was already a car length ahead by the 300-foot mark as Schumacher's Army dragster struggled to find traction. It looked to be a sure win for the 36-year-old from Dallas until his engine suddenly let go. The explosion was so violent it lifted the supercharger right off the top of the engine and sent it skyward to the full extent of the restraint system.

"It was cool to be so far out in front of Tony," said Lampus, who fell to 0-4 lifetime versus Schumacher. "We were only one second into that run but I was already getting excited. I didn't see his car at all so I know I was out front and I was just concentrating on going straight down the middle of the track and getting the most out of this car. Then 'boom,' just like that my head was smacking the dashboard and he was gone.

"This is the first time that a catastrophic parts failure has cost us a race. Initial indications are that the No. 7 connecting rod sheared in half, which took the No. 8 cylinder and the blower belt with it. Then the engine just grenaded and we were done."

Schumacher went on to post a lackluster 5.094-second lap at 262.95 mph while Lampus coasted through the timers in 6.459 seconds at 131.92 mph. Lampus did earn enough points at this event to comfortably keep his spot in the Winston Top 10, which he's held for 14 of 17 events this year including the last 13 in a row. He also remains one of a handful of pros to have successfully qualified for every race this year.

"There are so many good drivers out here," Lampus said. "But our goal is to be the best we can be every lap and make the other car beat us. Unfortunately, that didn't happen today. This time we had a win in the bag and then gave it away. It's all part of racing and we're not going to let this slow us down at all.

"Our fantastic season continues. Our goals are higher now and we want to rack up wins at every race but there is no denying the fact that we've come a long way. We have a great sponsor in ExpressAutoParts.com and a top-notch crew. Our time will come."

The rescheduled 31st annual Matco Tools Spring SuperNationals will be broadcast Sunday from 1-3 p.m. on ESPN.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Schumacher , Don Lampus