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Crampton enjoying wild ride

June 10th, 2014 7:08 pm by Jeff Birchfield

Crampton enjoying wild ride

It has been a whirlwind few weeks for Richie Crampton heading into this weekend’s NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway.

The Australia native, who moved from crew chief to the driver’s seat of the Morgan Lucas Racing 330 mph Top Fuel dragster at the start of this season, won two weeks ago at Englishtown, New Jersey for his first NHRA win in just his ninth career start. It came just two weeks after Crampton celebrated the birth of his daughter.

“It’s been a little bit of a blur for me. The past few weeks have been pretty hectic,” he said. “Fortunately, I was able to make it home from the Atlanta race in time to be there for the birth of our daughter, Emma, and most importantly her and my girlfriend, Stephanie, are doing fantastic. So couldn’t have wished for anything better there. Then to go to Englishtown and get my first win in Top Fuel against someone like Doug Kalitta, it truly was a dream come true. So my head is still spinning a little bit and my feet really haven’t touched the ground.”

Kalitta could serve as his toughest competition again this weekend. Besides being the current Top Fuel points leader, Kalitta is a three-time winner at the Thunder Valley Nationals. More than simply a performance standpoint, Crampton understood what it meant to race Kalitta in the final round at Englishtown as it was the site of his cousin Scott’s fatal crash in a Funny Car in 2008.

“Obviously Englishtown is a very special race for the Kalitta family and all of their team cars,” Crampton said. “I’m sure sentimentally, it would have been great to see Doug win that final round, given everything that happened there with Scott. That’s still just surreal to me to think that we won like that since Doug Kalitta has got the best Top Fuel car around right now.”

While a rookie on the NHRA circuit, the 33-year-old Crampton is a veteran of the Supercharged Outlaw class in his native country. He’s also licensed to drive both in Super Comp and Top Alcohol Dragster, although the last few years have been focused on his job as a clutch specialist, fabricator and car chief. 

Still, he knew when the opportunity to drive the rail car arrived, he couldn’t pass it up. After all, team owner Morgan Lucas had shown it was capable of being one of the best Top Fuel cars in the field.

“The car that I get to drive finished No. 4 in the world last year, so when you kind of keep that in mind, we have all the equipment, all the personnel and all the best parts, and there’s no reason why this team shouldn’t perform,” he said. “I get to drive a great race car for a great team, and I’m very fortunate that I got into the winner’s circle so early in my career. I really don’t know beyond that what you attribute winning my first national event so soon to.”

He called it a leap of faith that the team trusted him as the driver after being a part of the crew the past seven years. If winning his first NHRA race wasn’t enough, Crampton also hit a milestone of becoming the 100th Top Fuel driver to win a national event, joining such names as “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, Shirley Muldowney, Kenny Bernstein and Tony Schumacher.

“Obviously, I had no idea that I could ever possibly stake my claim on that list of so many legendary drivers in that kind of unique slot of No. 100,” Crampton said. “That is kind of like the cherry on top. Trying to go out and try to win a Top Fuel drag race has always been something that I have always dreamed about doing, and to finally get to contend in a final and to win and then to be No. 100 on that list that’s full of so many legends, that’s definitely still surreal to me. It’s pretty exciting and pretty cool.”

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