'Race of Champions' on tap for Round 1

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (Sept. 6) -- Rookie of the Year candidate Don Lampus Jr. has had an exceptional first year on the NHRA Championship Drag Racing circuit. The reigning IHRA Top Fuel world champion has successfully qualified his eye-catching ...

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (Sept. 6) -- Rookie of the Year candidate Don Lampus Jr. has had an exceptional first year on the NHRA Championship Drag Racing circuit. The reigning IHRA Top Fuel world champion has successfully qualified his eye-catching ExpressAutoParts.com dragster at all 17 national events on the schedule, including this weekend's rescheduled 31st annual Matco Tools Spring SuperNationals.

But despite being a part of the top 10 in the Winston points for 14 of 17 races, beating some of the biggest names in the sport while winning six elimination rounds, and racing through to the final four in Denver, Lampus has yet to accomplish one major goal in 2000 -- beating reigning NHRA Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher.

The two champs have met three times this year with Schumacher coming out on top each time. As fate would have it, the two men will meet again a t 2 p.m. Saturday when the opening round of this weekend's race begins. The event was cancelled by rain and rescheduled after an abbreviated qualifying session. At that point, Schumacher had qualified fourth and Lampus 13th, setting up the year's fourth "Race of Champions."

"Tony represents the toughest competition there is in our sport," Lampus said. "He's the reigning champ and the current points leader, the best of the best. But we're travelling too far to go back there and lose in the first round. I know I've never beaten him and the guys on the team know it too, so we're going to pull out all the stops and go for it.

"We've done a nice job of maintaining and conserving our equipment and we've built up a little bit of a surplus for this final stretch run. I know we need to pull out the big guns and take dead aim at that Army dragster if we want to record our first win against him."

All qualified teams will have two chances to reacquaint themselves with historic Old Bridge Township Raceway Park during a pair of test-and-tune sessions scheduled for 3 and 7 p.m. Friday. The times recorded during those practice rounds will not affect Saturday's elimination ladder.

"We need to run a pair of solid, consistent 4.6-second laps and get him thinking about us," Lampus said. "He's in a tight points battle at the top of the leaderboard and we're in one down at the bottom of the top 10. This ExpressAutoParts.com team could make a big move here and the fact that it's in my sponsor's backyard gives us even more incentive to turn up the jets. I think it's my turn to make some noise."

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