Pomona: Lampus ready to write 'storybook finish'

POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 6) -- For seven years NHRA Rookie of the Year finalist Don Lampus lived in the shadow of drag racing's birthplace, completely oblivious to the fact his racing career would eventually take him to the origin of quarter-mile ...

POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 6) -- For seven years NHRA Rookie of the Year finalist Don Lampus lived in the shadow of drag racing's birthplace, completely oblivious to the fact his racing career would eventually take him to the origin of quarter-mile competition at historic Pomona Raceway. Now, the engineer who toiled for airplane manufacturing giant McDonnell Douglas at its Long Beach plant from 1987-1990, returns to Southern California with the high hopes his budding drag racing career will continue to bloom.

Lampus may not have drag raced when he called the Golden State home, but he still spent plenty of time behind the wheel of a racecar. The 36-year-old Penn State grad, who now lives in Dallas, raced full-time on the SCORE off-road series during his time on the west coast, and was proficient enough to win a world championship in the 1-2 1600cc class.

Eventually, the need for more speed caught up with Lampus and he made the transition to drag racing. Amazingly, in just his first full year in the seat of a 6,000 horsepower Top Fuel dragster, he won the 1999 IHRA World Championship. Now he's battling the best drivers in the world in the NHRA and has done well enough in his first year to be a part of the Winston Top 10 after 17 of 22 events, logging eight elimination-round wins along the way.

"What a year it's been," said Lampus, as he prepared for the season-ending 36th annual Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals. "I never imagined what it would take to race at this level. I've learned so much over the last 10 months -- it's mind-boggling.

"I'm psyched about coming back to California and racing in Pomona. This is a race I've always come to, even when we were on the other circuit, just because it's such a huge event. I'm always thrilled to race here because all of my old buddies, some of my co-workers from McDonnell Douglas, and even some of my off-road racing friends come out and support us at this race. Southern California is like a second home to me.

"The best part of this trip is that we've got some things happening with this team that have us very excited. We've recently started running in the 4.5-second, 320-mph range, which puts us in some pretty elite company and definitely tells me we have a car that can win this race. We are holding on to a Top 10 spot that we would like to nail down for good and we certainly have our eye on the Rookie of the Year trophy. I'm looking for a storybook finish."

ESPN2 will broadcast several hours of the 36th annual Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals. Qualifying highlights will air from 10:30-11:30 p.m. (PT), on Saturday, Nov. 11. Same-day elimination round coverage will be divided into two segments on Sunday, Nov. 12, with the first round airing from 3-4 p.m. (PT) and the finals airing from 7-9 p.m. (PT). A repeat will follow from 10 p.m.-12 a.m. (PT), on Monday, Nov. 13.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Don Lampus