Behind the Scenes
WHILE THE SPORT OF DRAG RACING PROVIDES AMPLE OPPORTUNITIES FOR COMPETITORS IN THE PRO RANKS TO EARN THEIR LIVELIHOOD DOING WHAT THEY LOVE,
THERE ARE PRECIOUS FEW CHANCES FOR SPORTSMAN RACERS TO DO THE SAME. You can probably count them all on one hand.
One of the lucky few is known as “Rambo” David Rampy.
For nearly 35 years, the Piedmont, Alabama, resident has been traveling the NHRA circuit (plus IHRA in the ’80s) in search of the winner’s circle. He’s found it an astounding 95 times at NHRA national events, plus at 55 divisional titles and assorted other major events.
It all began in 1973 when David transitioned from an occasional illicit participant in “contests of speed” to the preferred environment of a sanctioned drag strip—Sylacauga in particular. His weapon of choice was a four-speed
Rampy first struck pay dirt in 1983, winning Super Stock Eliminator at NHRA’s Cajun Nationals. His mount was a Pontiac GTO owned by his future father-in-law, Sonny Ray. He and Sonny’s daughter, Kelly, tied the knot in 1986, and she’s been an important part of the equation ever since, tending to the administrative needs of a full schedule. Meanwhile, Rampy has plenty on his plate maintaining a variety of race cars, including a ’93 S-10 bracket racer for 26-year-old son Chase.
A scan of Rampy’s racing résumé shows the majority of his wins have come in Competition Eliminator. As the most prolific Comp racer in the sport’s history, he’s often questioned about the class’ future and how to reinvigorate it in the face of
dwindling participation. In typical form, underscoring his humble nature, Rampy allows as how, “There are lots of Comp cars sitting in garages all over the country. What NHRA needs to do is ask the owners of those cars why they’re not racing. If [the NHRA] can overcome just some of those obstacles, we’d be in a better place.”
In addition to his many wins in Comp, Rampy has scored in other classes as well: Super Comp, Super Gas, Stock, and most notably, Super Stock. He’s doubled up no less than four times, winning both categories at the same event.
While hopping from one car to the next might seem challenging, Rampy reiterates, “With both cars you’re driving off the bottom bulb, so that’s a constant. And, depending on who you’re racing, the closure rate can be similar.” Rampy has developed an acute feel for taking the stripe. With S/S or Stock you can break out, while in Comp you can set yourself up for a CIC penalty.
For many years, Rampy partnered with Indiana RV dealer Harold Stout, and they enjoyed much success (although a brief foray into the Pro Stock ranks in the early ’90s didn’t provide the anticipated dividends). Other associations throughout the years included Boo Weekly, and most recently, Ray Skillman of Skillman Chevrolet, and Richard Freeman and Allan Patterson with Patterson-Elite.
David relishes his first Wally given its breakthrough prominence and family ties, and his 50th was certainly a milestone victory, but in Rampy’s mind, his most recent victory at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois (number 95), was especially sweet. “Given the layout of the track and the way things worked out, we were able to share the winner’s circle photos with the Skillmans and Pattersons,” he said. “I’ve been relying on Patterson/Elite engines for most of my career, and the Skillman family has been most supportive of our efforts.”
What’s next on Rampy’s agenda? As of this writing, he’s leading the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series national points in Comp Eliminator and is second in Super Stock, just a few points out of the lead—so capturing an NHRA World Championship or two is certainly in the cards. And then there’s that magic 100 number. With fellow Sportsman standout Dan Fletcher nabbing his hundredth Wally at the Joliet event, the incentive is certainly there. Given the performance and reliability of Rampy’s cars, coupled with his obvious driving skills, it’s not a matter of if, but rather when.
David Rampy: #42 of NHRA’s Top 50 Drivers. Rampy was one of only three true sportsman drivers to be honored. UPDATE: July 23, Rampy scored 96th win.
Rampy’s Super Stock Camaro is also a potent multinational event winner. As of this writing, he’s first in Comp and second in Super Stock. We could very well be looking at a double world champ.
Rampy’s 2017 NHRA Route 66 win was especially sweet. He was able to share the winner’s circle with the Skillman clan (Drew won Pro Stock) and the folks from Patterson Elite engines.
When you think of Rampy, this is the image that first comes to mind, his Comp Eliminator roadster.
The first of 96: Rampy’s Super Stock win at NHRA’s 1983 Cajun Nationals.