Top Fuel standout Richie Crampton is hoping to cash in for the sixth time in 2015 at the penultimate event of the season.
Las Vegas – Thanks to his victory at the most recent event in Dallas, Top Fuel standout Richie Crampton managed to maintain his flawless performances in final rounds.
Crampton picked up his seventh Top Fuel victory in his seventh final round appearance at a national event, this time at the Texas Motorplex, jumpstarting what had been a slow start during the first three races in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.
Now third in points in his 10,000-horsepower Lucas Oil dragster, Crampton will take those impressive final round odds to Las Vegas for the 15th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Oct. 29-Nov. 1, hoping to cash in for the sixth time in 2015 at the penultimate event of the season.
“I was more nervous for the first round than the final,” said Crampton. “Whenever you give (crew chief) Aaron Brooks and my Lucas Oil guys three shots at a racetrack on Sunday, you’re probably going to have a pretty good car for the final round. I just fed off that confidence that we haven’t been beat in a final round yet and it’s still surreal to me, to have that stat. I can’t say enough about my guys and that really helps my confidence.”
Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Del Worsham (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will once again be televised on ESPN2. The 15th annual NHRA Toyota marks the fifth of six playoff races in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs and the race will play a significant part in the championship hunt.
Crampton is 203 points back of Top Fuel points leader Antron Brown, meaning a world title may be a longshot, but the Australia native can certainly end his season in style following the victory at the Texas Motorplex. Crampton had a great rookie season in 2014, winning twice, including the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, and claiming the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award as well.
But Crampton’s first Countdown to the Championship didn’t go as planned, as he posted just three round wins in six events, finishing ninth in points. Through the first three playoff races in 2015, Crampton had just one round win, but things changed quickly in Dallas, leading Crampton to believe that he can finish his season in spectacular fashion.
“We’re trying very hard to have the best finish possible in the points,” Crampton said. “We need to be better than everyone else we face. It would help our cause tremendously to bag a few more wins before the year is out. It’s already been a dream season but we want more. There are (two) more race days on the schedule, so we have (two) more chances to show our stuff.
"We're hungry for more, no question. These last (two) racetracks should play to our advantage as historically we always seem to do a bit better when the weather's cooler and the track's tightened up. When you can pound on the track and pour every bit of horsepower you make into the tune-up, it's a lot of fun for the fans and the drivers."
Crampton will face a loaded field in Vegas, including Brown, who won the first three events of the Countdown and is seeking his second Top Fuel world championship. Other standouts include reigning and eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher, who is 132 points behind Brown, Brittany Force, three-time world champion Larry Dixon, Doug Kalitta, J.R. Todd, Steve Torrence, Shawn Langdon and Dave Connolly.
But as his 2015 performance, which has included wins in Las Vegas, Topeka, Bristol, Brainerd and Dallas, has shown, Crampton is capable of performing at a high level when the pressure mounts.
"We've got the hot rod to get the job done, and I'd match up our crew against any other one out there," Crampton said. "It's just so tough to win these things. To have (five) trophies this season and (seven) overall in less than two years of driving is crazy. I know a lot of people go years, sometimes their entire careers, without winning a single race. It speaks to the talent of (crew chief) Aaron Brooks and this group of guys.”
Crampton, who became the 100th different winner in Top Fuel with his first career victory last season, has proven his worth in a short time, as evidenced by his perfect performance in final rounds. A possible top-three finish in Top Fuel in just his second year would also make for another significant step in Crampton’s already successful career.
“The thing about winning races is it makes you that much hungrier to do it again,” Crampton said. “You know, the fans see that little bit of action when we’re out there on the strip, but the real work is what happens back in the pits and home at the race shop when we’re preparing for each run. That’s when you earn your money.
“The racing part is fun, it’s what we all live for, but none of that happens without the hard work these guys put in behind the scenes. That’s why it’s so gratifying when you do win a race because we all know how much has gone into that moment. It’s not easy by any means, which is what makes it so special.”
In the search for his first Funny Car world championship, Del Worsham picked up his third Countdown win at the most recent event in Dallas, pushing his lead to 38 points over Jack Beckman. Other Funny Car stalwarts include Tommy Johnson Jr., who sits in third and 147 points out of first, reigning world champion Matt Hagan, Ron Capps, a Funny Car-best five-time Vegas winner, 16-time world champion John Force, teammate Alexis DeJoria, Cruz Pedregon, Robert Hight and Tim Wilkerson.
Erica Enders will look to get a step closer to a second straight world title in Las Vegas in Pro Stock, thanks in part to winning her second race of the Countdown in Dallas, but will have to deal with the likes of four-time world champion and seven-time Vegas winner Greg Anderson, who sits 154 points back in second. Enders will look to clinch a world title in Vegas, but also must contend with Chris McGaha, Allen Johnson, rookie Drew Skillman, who picked up his first career Pro Stock win in St. Louis, Larry Morgan, Vincent Nobile, Jason Line, Shane Gray and Jonathan Gray.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, reigning world champion and points leader Andrew Hines, who has a class-best four wins in Vegas, lost in the first round in Dallas and watched his points lead fall to just 21 points over teammate Eddie Krawiec. Jerry Savoie, who was the victor in Dallas, pulled to within 31 points, while Hector Arana Jr., who won in St. Louis, is 81 points behind Hines. Others to watch include Matt Smith, Hector Arana, two-time season winner Karen Stoffer, Jim Underdahl, Chip Ellis and Scotty Pollacheck.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, Oct. 30, with sessions at 12:15 and 3:45 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, Oct. 31, at 12:15 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 1.