ST. LOUIS (June 20) -- NHRA Top Fuel Rookie of the Year candidate Don Lampus is excited about his first all-nighttime drag race, which will take place Thursday through Saturday at Gateway International Raceway with the fourth annual running of...
ST. LOUIS (June 20) -- NHRA Top Fuel Rookie of the Year candidate Don Lampus is excited about his first all-nighttime drag race, which will take place Thursday through Saturday at Gateway International Raceway with the fourth annual running of the Sears Craftsman Nationals. The reigning IHRA Top Fuel champion has made a handful of 315-mph runs under the lights in his ExpressAutoParts.com dragster but has never contested an entire event at night.
Due to excessive heat in the past, organizers decided to contest this race in the evening hours to level the playing field for the racers and provide a more pleasant environment for the fans. The interesting schedule now calls for qualifying sessions at 5 and 9 p.m. (CST) on Thursday and Friday with final eliminations beginning at 4 p.m. Saturday.
"This will be a whole new experience for us," Lampus said. "Usually we run Round 2 at night so it won't be a totally foreign environment, but it will be different. Everyone has to adjust their schedules so that we're completely 'up' and ready to get after it when we hit the track. In situations like this, the team's that are the most prepared usually excel."
Lampus, a 35-year-old from Dallas, is currently 10th in the Winston championship points standings. He has successfully qualified for all 11 national events on the schedule and has logged three elimination-round victories. The 1996 SCORE off-road World Champion recently took delivery of a new Brad Hadman-built chassis and is anxious to improve his current standings in the second half of the season.
"We're on our way," Lampus said. "The competition in the NHRA is unbelievable. I thought the 90-percent nitro rule would force everyone to start over with their tune ups but the top teams have already found a way to overcome the power deficit. Still, we have a new car and half a season of experience now so we're definitely gaining on everyone. I'm happy with where we are and if we can make this a consistent 4.6-second car, which I feel is close to happening, then we'll be a contender at every race.
"We'd love to have a big weekend here in St. Louis. Craftsman Tools is one of our big associate sponsors and this is their race so we need to make them proud."
The unique format of the fourth annual Sears Craftsman Nationals yields a slightly altered television schedule. Qualifying highlights will be shown on ESPN2 from 8-10 p.m. (ET) Saturday, with a repeat broadcast from 3-5 a.m. early Sunday morning. The elimination rounds will be broadcast from 10 p.m. to midnight (ET) Sunday and will re-air from 1-3 a.m. (ET) Thursday, June 29.