Final four finish for Lampus shocks field LAS VEGAS (Oct. 28) -- Reigning Winston Rookie of the Year driver Don Lampus Jr. spent his abbreviated weekend at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway raising eyebrows across pit row with a semifinal ...
Final four finish for Lampus shocks field
LAS VEGAS (Oct. 28) -- Reigning Winston Rookie of the Year driver Don Lampus Jr. spent his abbreviated weekend at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway raising eyebrows across pit row with a semifinal finish at the inaugural ACDelco NHRA Las Vegas Nationals. Lampus downed upstart Joe Hartley and No. 1 qualifier Larry Dixon to reach his second NHRA final four, where he lost to 2001 Rookie of the Year candidate Darrell Russell.
The 37-year-old Dallas resident now has three elimination round wins in seven days after his return to the sport last weekend in Texas. Lampus has been sidelined for most of the season searching for a new title sponsor. With a full deal pending for next year, he elected to run the final three national events in preparation for a title run in 2002.
"I never would have thought that I'd show up here, run one qualifying lap, and race to the semifinals on Sunday," said Lampus, who missed most of qualifying due to a friend's wedding. "It's almost surreal. Taking out the Miller Lite car in Round 2 was probably the biggest win I've had in NHRA competition. That made this weekend a winner right there."
After qualifying in the No. 9 position with a 4.643-second pass at 316.75 mph, Lampus yielded lane choice to Hartley in the opening session. Surprisingly, Hartley selected the right lane, placing Lampus on the favored left-hand side of the track. Hartley's gamble, precipitated by his career-best pass in qualifying of 4.639 at 317.12 mph in the right lane, didn't pay off today as he lost traction early and smoked his tires. Lampus took the win with a 4.709 at 316.30 mph in front of Hartley's 5.567 at 178.50 mph.
In the second round Lampus faced low qualifier and championship contender Dixon of the Miller Lite team. Dixon had run a stellar 4.53 at 323 mph in Round 1 but this time he was a little too aggressive and his car began to haze its tires halfway down the track, handing Lampus one of the most shocking upset victories of the 2001 season. The final numbers had Lampus crossing the finish line in 4.677 seconds at 315.71 mph ahead of Dixon's 5.039 at 265.74 mph. True to his word, current points leader Kenny Bernstein had his Budweiser crew deliver a truckload of beer to Lampus' pit for taking the heat off of him in this year's title run.
Lampus entered the semis as the favorite against Russell, who had won a pair of tire-smokers in the first two sessions. But this time Russell's machine held together and posted a competitive 4.589 at 319.37 mph, while the Lampus Racing machine slumped to a 5.444 at 182.30 mph when his motor quit just past half-track.
"We encountered some parts failure and the car just shut-off," Lampus said. "But Darrell was on one heck of a lap any ways. It would have been so cool to get to the finals but this was a fantastic weekend nonetheless. The entire crew, with help from Johnny Gray's team, gave me a car capable of winning this race every round. They should all be proud of what they accomplished. I think we opened some eyes this weekend. I can't wait for next year."
Catch all the action of the inaugural ACDelco NHRA Las Vegas Nationals from 7-10 p.m. (ET) tonight on ESPN2. A repeat of the show airs from 3:30-6 a.m. (ET) Tuesday.