Second-year Top Fuel driver Richie Crampton gave away a near-certain victory in the quarterfinal round of the 35th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals when he jumped the start against multi-time champion Larry Dixon.
To add to the pain of the red-light disqualification, Dixon would go on to smoke his tires, winning with a very beatable 6.836 at 96.76 mph. Crampton clicked off early when he realised his transgression but still drifted to a 4.390 at 191.29 mph.
“I’m gutted,” Crampton said. “I know Dixon’s a great driver and I wanted to be equal to the task and have a good light (reaction time) but I jumped early. No one to blame but myself. I feel like I let the team down and I let Lucas Oil and all our sponsors down. We should be getting ready for the semifinals right now. Instead, we’re packing for Topeka (Kan.).”
The day started great for Crampton, the reigning Auto Club Rookie of the Year, as he beat Brittany Force with an impressive 3.784 at 324.98 mph to Force’s 3.839 at 322.27 mph. At that point, Crampton’s top speed was the fastest of the weekend.
“Yeah the car ran good there for sure,” the native Australian said. “The morning cloud cover was just hanging around long enough that the conditions were great. It got considerably hotter 20 minutes later when that sun poked through but we were able to put down a great pass. Good calls by Aaron Brooks and Rod Centorbi (tuners) there.”
As good as Crampton’s first pass was, Dixon’s opening salvo against Tony Schumacher was slightly quicker (3.779), giving his team lane choice in the second-round matchup, yet another factor weighing on Crampton’s mind.”
“The Safety Safari did a great job with the track, but it did appear that the right lane had a bit more grip,” Crampton said. “All the best runs were being made over there. I still felt like we had a good enough car to win on the left side, though. We had run well in both lanes during qualifying.
“Man, this one hurts. Most of the drivers in front of us in the standings were dropping early. It could have been a day to really gain some points and move up. It just wasn’t meant to be. The guys have been great but I feel bad. It’s just a crap feeling.”
The Lucas Oil team won’t have long to brew on this result as the tour quickly heads to Topeka for next weekend’s Kansas NHRA Nationals