GEICO/Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster driver Richie Crampton had quite the wild day at the Circle K NHRA Winternationals on Sunday in Pomona.
He scored a first-round win after turning his Morgan Lucas Racing dragster nearly completely sideways, but then his day went up in smoke almost immediately in the second round.
But Crampton also showed plenty of speed, as crew chief Aaron Brooks tuned him to a No. 2 qualifying spot, and Crampton quickly earned his first round-win of the 2015 season.
“We qualified excellent, so we had a huge amount of confidence coming into race day,” Crampton said. “We tried to pick up where we left off from the NHRA Finals. Qualifying No. 2 at the Winternationals is definitely the way we wanted to start the year. Getting a first-round win out of the way is also a good thing, so there are definitely some positives from this weekend.”
His first-round win came close to a disqualification. Racing No. 15 qualifier J.R. Todd — the runner-up in the Top Fuel championship race a year ago — Crampton took command as Todd smoked the tires early, but things went awry while Crampton struggled to regain control of his race car.
“I’m not sure what it is about the right lane here,” Crampton said. “There’s some little bump, and I think I hit it just at the right time. I almost crossed the centerline trying to pedal it, so I guess I’m out of practice. But we got the win and that’s the most important part about it.”
Crampton’s car nearly turned right, touching the centerline as it settled down. His pass was 4.369 seconds at 202.18 mph, and though it wouldn’t set any records it did beat Todd’s 9.379-second pass at 78.33 mph.
“Smoking the tires during that run didn’t enable us to have lane choice for the second round, which I think eventually cost us,” Crampton said. “It was very uncharacteristic of this race car to smoke the tires almost instantly like that (in E2). We’ll just put it down to one of them things. We’ll go on to Phoenix.”
Against No. 7 qualifier Larry Dixon, Crampton’s car spun the tires at the hit, and Crampton had to watch Dixon get the round-win with a pass of 3.848 seconds at 310.20 mph while Crampton coasted across with a 9.623-second pass at 80.59 mph.
Still, Crampton’s excellent qualifying position and round-win has him fifth in the Top Fuel standings. That’s the highest he has been in his young career.
Up next for Crampton and the GEICO/Lucas Oil crew is the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, Feb. 20-22, in Phoenix.