Houston: Lampus becomes one of the elite

HOUSTON (Oct. 29) -- NHRA Top Fuel rookie Don Lampus made six trips down Houston Raceway Park's quarter-mile this weekend en route to a quarterfinal finish at the fourth annual Matco Tools SuperNationals presented by Racing Champions. Amazingly,...

HOUSTON (Oct. 29) -- NHRA Top Fuel rookie Don Lampus made six trips down Houston Raceway Park's quarter-mile this weekend en route to a quarterfinal finish at the fourth annual Matco Tools SuperNationals presented by Racing Champions. Amazingly, he reset his career-best numbers during half of those passes, making this the most productive weekend of the year for the ExpressAutoParts.com race team.

Entering this event, the best numbers Lampus had ever recorded over 1,320 feet was 4.632 seconds and 315.19 mph. He quickly improved the top speed mark in the opening session of qualifying when he topped out at 317.87 mph. Then, in a shocking Friday night round, he stirred the crowd into a frenzy with a jaw-dropping 4.580-second, 320.36-mph pass. Proving the run was no fluke, Lampus posted a 4.584 at 321.19 mph the next afternoon, once again improving his best mph mark.

"We've stepped into a new category of race cars," Lampus said. "It's pretty amazing stuff. I couldn't be prouder of (crew chief) Wayne Dupuy and what he's done with this car in just a few short races. There are only a handful of cars running 4.5s at 320 mph."

Clearly one of the cars to beat, Lampus began Race Day in a season-high third place on the elimination ladder. He had lane choice over No. 14 qualifier Rhonda Hartman-Smith and it paid immediate dividends when Hartman-Smith went up in smoke at the hit of the throttle. Lampus was cruising to an easy victory but his ExpressAutoParts.com dragster neared the center line at the other end of the track, forcing the 36-year-old from Dallas to lift off the accelerator to avoid crossing over the line and disqualifying himself.

The slight pause in power gave Lampus the win in just 4.890 seconds at 280.84 mph, which handed lane choice to his second round opponent Bob Vandergriff, who had won his opening round race with a 4.749-second lap at 310.84 mph. The difference came back to haunt Lampus in the quarterfinal race when his car lost traction at the starting line while Vandergriff sped away for the win.

"It's disappointing because I think on this day we had the better car," Lampus said. "Bob's a great driver and I give him all the credit in the world -- he did what it took to win. But I just know we should have had that one.

"No matter what, this was such a great weekend. We now know what this car is capable of and, to be honest, it's even better then I thought it would be. I can't wait to get back to Dallas in a few days and step on the 'loud' pedal again. Heck, I can't wait to get to Pomona in two weeks and I can't wait for next season to start.

"I believe we'll be a top five car next year. There is no doubt in my mind that we have the car, the crew chief, and the crew to get it done. I knew the future was bright for this race team. This weekend I realized how great it's really going to be."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Rhonda Hartman-Smith , Don Lampus