Australian rookie Top Fuel racer Richie Crampton sped his way into the US drag racing history books with his first professional career win at this weekend’s NHRA Summernationals in New Jersey.
The Adelaide-born racer, who this year switched roles at top-team Morgan Lucas Racing – from crew member to driver – for the GEICO Lucas Oil dragster, became just the second Australian professional winner, and the 100th Top Fuel winner in NHRA history.
Crampton, in just his ninth career start, made a 3.819-second pass at 320.51 mph (515.81kph), defeating NHRA Top Fuel points leader Doug Kalitta at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey.
"I'm absolutely over the moon with this win,” Crampton said.
“I already know I'm the luckiest guy in the pit and now we've proven it. This is beyond anything I could have ever imagined to go from a crew guy to standing here with a Wally (trophy) in just a few months’ time.
"I'm so humbled that GEICO, Lucas Oil, and Toyota showed faith in me and gave me this awesome opportunity. I'm really quite stunned at the moment."
Crampton, who qualified No. 2 in the 16-car field, averted disaster in the opening round of eliminations after his right front wheel went flat as he backed up from the prerace burnout.
"I'd never had that happen, so I didn't know whether to give up or just go for it," he said.
"I decided to just go and it was surprising how well the car steered considering the rubber was shredding the entire way down the track."
Crampton then had to pedal his car in both the quarter- and semi-finals to get to the other end, outdriving JR Todd and reigning world champion Shawn Langdon in the process.
The final against top qualifier Kalitta was a straight-up drag race with Crampton winning with a 3.819 at 320.51 mph to Kalitta's 3.848 at 317.34 mph. Including the reaction times, Crampton's margin of victory was just .009-second.
"Doug's had the car this year so far, so to better him that round was a real accomplishment,” he said.
"I bet this news will ring across Australia pretty well. I'm doing my best to represent Australian drag racing, and I know we have a lot of folks keeping up with us down there.
"I bet some there’ll be some beers downed at the pub by my friends tonight!”
Main image supplied. © Mark J. Rebilas