Leading rookie of the year candidate Richie Crampton’s 50th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals campaign has been cut short, narrowly missing out on a quarterfinal win by 17 hundredths of a second to newly re-crowned champion Tony Schumacher.
Crampton was the top qualifier ahead of eliminations at Pomona and went on to defeat Troy Buff in round one, before going on to face Schumacher in the second – having his stellar season brought to an end.
The Australian GEICO/Lucas Oil Top Fuel Dragster pilot takes fond memories away from 2014.
“This year has been beyond anything I could have hoped for and I’m sad it's over,” Crampton said.
"I'm eternally grateful to Forrest, Charlotte, and Morgan Lucas for giving me this incredible opportunity to realise my dream this year, and I'm humbled by the faith GEICO, Lucas Oil, Toyota, and all the other sponsors of this team showed in an unproven driver.
“I wanted to reward everyone with one more win and we had the car to beat Schumacher. It just came down to a few inches and he was on the right side of it this time. We still had a great weekend and a superb year.”
In the close quarterfinal duel, Crampton posted a similar time to Schumacher and challenged him all the way to the line, setting a 3.763 seconds at 327.82mph to his opponent’s 3.752 at 327.35mph.
“The GEICO/Lucas Oil Morgan Lucas Racing team gave me a great race car and (crew chief) Aaron Brooks was on his game with the tune-up," Crampton said.
“We were both right on the limit of what the track would hold. In the end, they had just a touch more.”
With two wins this year, including the 60th annual Chevrolet Performance US Nationals, and a number one qualifying run this weekend, Crampton is the favourite for the NHRA’s Auto Club Road to the Future Award, presented to the sport’s top rookie.
"That would be such a great way to finish the season," Crampton said.
" I want to win it for all of the people that took a chance on me. It would be an awesome thing to share with my teammates, who are all my great friends.
“I worked side-by-side with these guys for many years, and when I got the call to drive they were nothing but supportive. It would be something we could all share together."
The Road to the Future Award will be announced at the annual NHRA banquet tomorrow night in Hollywood.