INDIANAPOLIS (August 29) -- Forgive NHRA Rookie of the Year candidate Don Lampus if he seems a little wide-eyed this weekend at the 46th annual U.S. Nationals. The talented Top Fuel pro is returning to the very place where he decided to scrap his...
INDIANAPOLIS (August 29) -- Forgive NHRA Rookie of the Year candidate Don Lampus if he seems a little wide-eyed this weekend at the 46th annual U.S. Nationals. The talented Top Fuel pro is returning to the very place where he decided to scrap his decorated off-road racing career and make the gargantuan move to the quickest and fastest racecars in the world. In a sense, Lampus' return to Indy brings his drag racing career full circle.
"I'm in awe of this place," Lampus said as his ExpressAutoParts.com team prepared their pit space at Indianapolis Raceway Park. "This is where it all started for me. Three year's ago my dad and I came to the U.S. Nationals with only a vague idea of what drag racing was all about. As soon as I saw Joe Amato make a pass I said to my dad, 'This is where I want to be.' Now here we are getting ready to race the best in the world. It's unreal."
Fresh off a world championship season in the SCORE off-road series where he earned the Toyota Milestone Award for completing all 2,600 miles of the racing circuit, Lampus and his father attended the 1997 U.S. Nationals on the suggestion of a friend. As soon as he saw Amato scream down the quarter-mile in 4.6 seconds at 320 mph, he knew his life was changed forever.
The 36-year-old engineer from Dallas quickly enrolled in Frank Hawley's Drag Racing School and within weeks was behind the wheel of a Top Fuel dragster competing in the International Hot Rod Association. After a partial season in 1998, Lampus attacked the circuit full force the following year, winning four of 10 races and collecting the 1999 IHRA World Championship.
Now Lampus is making waves in the NHRA. He has successfully qualified for every event on the 2000 schedule, five times in the top half of the field, and has raced well enough to be a part of the Winston Top 10 following 12 of the 15 events contested. He also has six elimination round wins including two over Amato, the winningest Top Fuel pilot of all time.
"We've come a long way in three years," Lampus said, "and I know I wouldn't be anywhere without this ExpressAutoParts.com crew and my parents. We have a strong team here and I think we're showing that every race. We just had our best qualifying effort of the year at the last event and now we're ready to go for it here in Indy.
"For the first time this year I can honestly say I'm nervous. There are so many dragsters here and this event means so much to everyone. I hope we can just hold our own and continue to race the way we have all year. After qualifying, whatever happens will just be adding to this killer dream I'm been having for the last three years."
Same-day television coverage of the U.S. Nationals will air Labor Day entirely on TNN. Qualifying and first-round action will be broadcast from noon-2 p.m. ET with final eliminations airing from 5-7 p.m. ET, Monday, Sept. 4.