Rookie Don Lampus Jr.; moving on up

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 19) -- A career-best weekend at the 31st annual Gatornationals has propelled Top Fuel newcomer Don Lampus Jr. and his ExpressAutoParts.com Top Fuel team into the top 10 of the Winston championship points ...

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 19) -- A career-best weekend at the 31st annual Gatornationals has propelled Top Fuel newcomer Don Lampus Jr. and his ExpressAutoParts.com Top Fuel team into the top 10 of the Winston championship points standings.

Lampus, the reigning IHRA champion, continues to make huge strides in his rookie NHRA campaign. First he used a career best top speed of 313.95 during a 4.701-second lap to secure the No. 10 spot in the qualifying field, which yielded his best starting point of the young season. Then he hammered one of his old IHRA rivals, Doug Herbert, in Sunday's opening elimination session to record his first round win of 2000.

The weekend of fun stopped in the quarterfinals when Doug Kalitta dismissed Lampus with a 4.744-second lap to Lampus' 4.857-second pass. Still, his exceptional effort helped Lampus, a 35-year-old from Dallas, move up three spot in the points standings from 13th to 10th place.

"We couldn't be happier," Lampus said. "This year is going very well for us so far. We have reset either our career-best elapsed time or career-best top speed at every race, which tells me that we're steadily improving. Plus, we've been very consistent. Mike [McLaughlin, crew chief] has given me an outstanding racecar to drive and it's really made my job easy.

"It was amazing to get our first elimination round win today. The first one is always the toughest and to get it this early in the season feels awesome. I'm not exactly sorry that it came at Herbert's expense either. That guy's taken me out a few times in the past and it was nice to pay him back, especially at an NHRA race.

"My adrenaline was pumping during that lap. I got out in front of him and never saw him at all the whole way down the track. I don't think I took a breath or felt my heart beat until I got the win light." Lampus beat Herbert with a 4.773-second lap to Herbert's partially shut-off 7.03.

In the second round loss to Kalitta, Lampus actually had the lead until about the 1,000-foot mark when the ExpressAutoParts.com dragster slowed and Kalitta sneaked by for the win.

"The car weakened at the other end and the engine let go," Lampus said. "I never saw him until right at the end when he drove by me. I was like 'Oh, no. Not now.' But, that's racing.

"My hat's off to the crew for getting this ExpressAutoParts.com Top Fuel Dragster into the top 10. I'm already excited about the next race. We have a good, consistent 4.7-second dragster here. Now it's time to make this thing a good, consistent 4.6 second dragster."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Doug Kalitta , Don Lampus